‘I Love You, Michael Collins’ by Lauren Baratz-Logsted: Beautiful Middle Grade Historical Fiction

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In “I Love You, Michael Collins,” Lauren Baratz-Logsted creates a perfect melding of history and fiction in this middle grade story that will be enjoyed by boys and girls and adults.

The protagonist, Mamie (who was named after a President’s wife), is different from the other kids her age. Is she on the spectrum? Probably. She thinks differently and speaks in a manner that is much more mature than others her age. She also thinks more maturely, as is evidenced when all the rest of her classmates choose to write to Buzz Aldrin or Neal Armstrong and she decides to write to Michael Collins. No one can understand why she wants to write to the guy who isn’t going to step foot on the moon, but as the story unfolds, her choice becomes more and more apt.

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‘Wild Lives: Leading Conservationists on the Animals and the Planet They Love’ is a Fabulous Collection of Stories About Those Working to Help Animals and our Planet

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The stories and the people in “Wild Lives: Leading Conservationists on the Animals and the Planet They Love” by Lori Robinson and Janie Chodosh is a book filled with inspiration. The twenty “conservation pioneers” are all people who have eschewed an easy life in favor of a life filled with sacrifice and occasional hardship — but also immense reward and fulfillment.

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‘Lucky Boy’ by Shanthi Sekaran Is Thought-Provoking, Diverse Fiction

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“Lucky Boy” is the story of two women and the lengths to which they go to have or to keep the child that they both love. The two women have led very different lives.

Solimar comes from a very poor, very rural village in the State of Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s so poor that all the young people leave, and there are no students for the school, which closes. Solimar decides to go north to America, where she will have a chance to make money to send back to her parents. Her journey is fraught with danger and disappointment. She ends up pregnant in Berkeley, California.

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‘The Café by the Sea’ by Jenny Colgan

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“The Café by the Sea” continues Jenny Colgan’s string of lovely, light stories about women who need to take charge of their lives and make difficult changes. In this story, it’s rather the reverse — or it appears to be at first.

Flora MacKenzie has fled the tiny northern Scottish island where she — and her ancestors going waaaay back — were born, to live a “modern” life in London working as a paralegal for a large law firm. It becomes apparent from the start that Flora has no desire to go home. Absolutely none. Moreover, there appears to be a reason, not shared, why she can’t go back.

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Two Dogs, Two DNA Tests — How Much to Spend to Find Out Fido’s Ancestry?

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Some dogs come with AKC papers, and their heritage is crystal clear in their looks. Others may come from pet stores and have AKC papers, but their looks may be deceiving — was there a slip-up at the puppy mill? And many wonderful people adopt their dogs from rescues or animal shelters. Still others may find stray or abandoned dogs in the street and keep them. Another dog may clearly be a German shepherd mix or a beagle mix. Others might have a bully look. Some have hound-like long, silky ears. And another might be touted as a malitpoo, a goldendoodle or a labradoodle — in reality, all adorable mutts. But science says that trying to determine a dog’s breed from its looks is not only unscientific, but most of the time leads to incorrect guesses.

Studies have shown that when shelter workers guess a dog’s breed, they are often wrong. And in shelters where bully breeds are subject to BSL, or breed specific legislation, that can literally kill a dog. There is only one way to definitively find out who Fido’s ancestors were — using Fido’s DNA to trace his or her lineage.

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Mexican Folk Art Bilingual Board Books

Three bilingual board books by Dr. Cynthia Weill and published by Cinco Puntos Press will delight young readers and adults, too. “Opuestos” (Opposites), “Animal Talk” and “Count Me In” all feature the artwork of artists from the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. This is an area filled with many types of artists. The work of different artists grace each board book. And each board book is bilingual, teaching the reader about concepts in English and Spanish.

Two of the books are filled with small wooden animal figures called alebrijes. They are carved and carefully painted. Some have parts that can be removed like ears and tails. There are many artists in this area of Mexico who create alebrijes. Continue reading

‘The Good Widow’ a Clever Mystery about Betrayal and Second Chances

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With their new book, “The Good Widow,” Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke depart from their usual “turning forty” theme and create a mystery about two couples and the betrayal that the survivors face when two of them die.

Jacks, a teacher married to James for many years, had a secret she kept from him until long after they said their vows. Now she’s regretting keeping the secret and wondering if that’s why he died in Maui, far away from Kansas, where he was supposed to be traveling for work. The fact that he died on what was clearly a vacation with another woman, Dylan, was devastating.

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‘When Dimple Met Rishi’ by Sandhya Menon Is an Adorable Indian Love Story

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For anyone looking for a cute love story wrapped in lots of diversity, “When Dimple Met Rishi” by Sandhya Menon will certainly fit the bill. It is told in alternating third person points of view sharing Dimple and Rishi’s stories.

The different viewpoints are made very clear by labeling the narratives, and by telling the story in third person rather than in first person, the reader gets to understand how the two characters are feeling and what they are thinking, without having to think about the tone of the narration being different for the different people.

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‘Royal Bastards’ by Andrew Shvarts

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“Royal Bastards” by Andrew Shvarts is the first book in a series about a kingdom made up of conquered kingdoms and the rebellion that irrevocably changes the lives of the main characters, the royal bastards.

Tilla is the main character, and she is the bastard daughter of Lord Kent of the Western Province. As the reader learns, her ancestors were the rulers of the West before the ancestors of King Leopold Volaris of Lightspire got together with his mages (magicians) and conquered the neighboring kingdoms. So now, those who once ruled bow to the ruler of Lightspire. And Tilla has no idea that some are unhappy with that idea.

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‘A Dog Called Hope’ by Jason Morgan and Damien Lewis Is the Story of a Wounded Veteran and the Dog Who Made him Whole

 

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The story of Jason Morgan isn’t terribly unusual. He was serving in the special forces when he was badly injured in Central America. He ended up paralyzed from the waist down because of his injuries. He was despondent. Like many who serve in the military, Morgan assumed that he would always be able to do things as simple as standing and walking. When he couldn’t do that anymore, it was devastating.

Morgan became one of the injured veterans who receive a service dog courtesy of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). And that is what makes his story special — the fact that the dog he received saved his life by giving him a reason to live. The story also includes a very important side story — that of Jim Siegfried, the person who raised Morgan’s service dog for the first 18 months of the dog’s life.

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‘The Whole Way Home’ by Sarah Creech Is a Perfect Beach Read

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Longing for a bit of country lovin’ in your life? “The Whole Way Home” has country and loving to spare because the main character is a country singing star on her way to the top. Like many of the most famous and successful country singers, Jo Lover’s life has not been easy.

Jo Lover grew up in a one-bedroom cabin in a small town in Virginia. She and JD Gunn played music together since they were in fifth grade. They were best friends and then lovers. But JD left their band when he went to L.A. to make a movie, and since then, Jo has been determined to make a life — and a successful career — without him.

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‘An Elephant & Piggie Biggie!’ by Mo Willems

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What is better than one book by Mo Willems (beloved children’s author)? A compilation of FIVE of Mo Willems books.

No one will have to worry about misplacing one of these treasured stories because this big book will not just disappear into a pile. It definitely stands out.

Included are such classics as: “Today I Will Fly,” “Watch Me Throw the Ball,” “Can I Play, Too?” “Let’s Go for a Drive” and that classic “I Really Like Slop!” Each story is funny but also teaches something about life.

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