‘Hero: Hurricane Rescue’ by Jennifer Li Shotz is Timely Tale of a Boy and his Dog



The timing couldn’t have been better for “Hero: Hurricane Rescue” by Jennifer Li Shotz. After three hurricanes battered our country, kids are more aware of what damage a hurricane is capable of, and this story will be believable and fascinating as well as exciting to read.

In this story, a sequel to the book simply entitled “Hero,” Ben and Hero must effect another rescue, this time of their friend Jack. Hero is a retired search and rescue dog who worked with Ben’s father, a police officer in the town of Gulfport, Mississippi. Now Ben and Hero are best buddies, and when Jack and his puppy Scout leave right before a hurricane is approaching to visit Jack’s father, Ben is worried.

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‘Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker’ by Shelley Johannes Is a Creative Book for Early Chapter Book Readers


“Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker” by Shelley Johannes is a lovely chapter book for young readers who want some pictures with their text. Johannes’ artwork provides plenty of visual cues that are amazingly effective even though they are in black, grey and orange. The “pink” dress looks amazingly pink even though it’s orange!

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‘Wishtree’ by Katherine Applegate Does Not Disappoint


“Wishtree” by Katherine Applegate is just what one might expect from a Newbery medal winning author. It’s thoughtful, it’s poignant, and it’s timely. This is a story that will get middle school readers talking and thinking — and that’s what good literature is supposed to do.

In this story, Red, the main character, is a 216-year-old oak tree. For many generations, he has been the “wishtree” that people in the neighborhood pin their wishes on. Come May 1st every year, his branches are covered in rags, notes, socks, and even a random pair of underwear, all bearing the wishes of those who placed them there. Some wishes are silly while others are profound.

In fact, the first wish placed on the tree, generations ago, was the wish from a lonely young woman from Ireland, Maeve, to have someone she could love with all her heart. The next day, an infant was left in the hollow of the tree and that baby became the love of Maeve’s life. Continue reading

‘I’m Scared’ and ‘I’m Silly’ are part of ‘My First Comics’ Board Book Series for Young Children

Acclaimed author Jennifer L. Holm and her brother Matthew Holm have created a board book series titled “My First Comics” with the goal of introducing very young children to the language of feelings. The format is that of a comic book, and the text is simple, with lots of onomatopoeia. The colors are bright, and the characters repeat in the different books in the series.

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‘A Poison Dark and Drowning’ by Jessica Cluess Is a Fabulous Sequel to ‘A Shadow Bright and Burning’


Just like the first book in the series by Jessica Cluess, “A Shadow Bright and Burning,” the second book, “A Poison Dark and Drowning” grabs the reader from the first few pages. As in the first book, this middle book in the trilogy continues to showcase Cluess’s ability to combine just enough description, just the right dialogue, and plenty of plot to keep the pages turning quickly as the reader anxiously races to the end.

In many series, there are so many characters that when the second book is released a year later, readers must reread the first book to familiarize themselves again with who everyone is. That’s not the case here. The various sorcerers, the friends, the Ancient monsters — they all are mentioned with enough detail to enable readers to jump right into this book.

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‘The Losers Club’ is Andrew Clements’ Newest Thoughtful Middle Grade Novel


“The Losers Club” is by the prolific and talented Andrew Clements. He is the author of tens of beloved middle grade books, including the wonderful and famous “Frindle.”

With “The Losers Club,” Clements creates a main character who loves reading above all else. At least that’s what the reader learns at the beginning of the book. But as with all good literature — and Andrew Clements writes nothing if not good literature  — Alec Spencer, the protagonist, is much more than he appears to be at first glance.

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‘The Unicorn in the Barn’ by Jacqueline K. Ogburn: A Charming and Beautiful Middle Grade Novel


In spite of the title, “The Unicorn in the Barn” by Jacqueline K. Ogburn appears to be a realistic middle grade fiction book until the reader encounters the unicorn in the barn. Eric Harper lives on his family’s farm, and he’s still bitter that they had to sell his grandmother’s house, the ancestral family home, when his grandmother had to enter a nursing home.

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‘Twinderella: A Fractioned Fairy Tale’ by Corey Rosen Schwartz


From the title page where the word “fractioned” is substituted for the more-common “fractured” to describe the fairy tale story, the reader knows that “Twinderella” by Corey Rosen Schwartz is not your garden variety fairy tale.

There are two red-headed girls running down the steps leaving behind one glass slipper. And as the readers learn, Cinderella had a twin sister, Tinderella, who shared her miserable life. And because there were two of them, everything they had to do and everything they had was divided in half.

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‘Ban This Book’ by Alan Gratz is a Thought-provoking Middle Grade Novel

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Alan Gratz writes some gritty stories, like “Code of Honor” and “Prisoner B-3087.” With “Ban This Book,” Gratz takes the reader into a different kind of war — the war against censorship. The story comes right out of real life. Parents, because of their religious, political, or moral beliefs,  demand that certain books be removed from school library shelves.

J.K. Rowling, Louis Sachar, Jean Craighead George, Mary Downing Hahn, Peg Kehret, Mildred Taylor, Shel Silverstein, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, Dav Pilkey, and the list goes on and on. Esteemed, respected authors and wonderful literature, banned from schools and libraries because of narrow-minded thinking. Gratz exposes middle grade readers to the injustice inherent in this kind of thinking, and simultaneouly introduces them to the First Amendment of our Constitution in this beautifully written story.

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UPDATE: A Win for Workers! Pure Profit Versus Integrity; As Observed on a Local Level with Mechanics’ Strike

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The corner is quiet now and has been for a few weeks. The strikers are gone. They have been vindicated after an arbitrator found in their favor and against Napleton Cadillac of Libertyville. Congratulations to them.

The full decision can be read here. But in it, the actions of the employer were found to be unlawful, and the testimony of management was often found to be not credible. The decision uses words like “fabrication” and “piffle” in describing what Napleton management employees claim happened. The decision is worth reading. Some of the actions by Napleton appear to be especially vile — terminating a man out on disability leave, pushing out tens of thousands of dollars of strikers’ tools to be ruined in rain, and other instances of retaliation for their union activity (joining the union).

As stated in the original article below, if all employers were fair and just, unions would not be a necessity. But that is not reality. When Erwin Weil ran the dealership, he was fair and honest. The workers did not join a union because they were treated with respect and honesty. When ownership changed, so did the treatment. And that’s why unions are so powerful and so very, very necessary. They protect those who could not protect themselves alone.

This writer is a teacher at a local school district. I am also the union president. The administrators at this district are fair and honorable. While we don’t always agree, there is a true feeling of mutual respect and trust. That has not always been the case in the past. And contrary to many conservative opinions, having a union and union leadership helps the district in working with employee relations and working through problems that may arise.

In my opinion, a school district or corporation that is run fairly, competently and honorably is one where the union leadership and the management work hand-in-hand together to promote an atmosphere of cooperation and respect. If management does not respect the union, it does not respect the workers. Period.

See original article below:

For the past month, residents of Libertyville, Illinois, or anyone driving up Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville, have been struck by an unusual sight. In front of a few car dealerships, including Napleton Cadillac, workers are on strike. The strike has been going on for a relatively long time.

When Erwin Weil owned the Cadillac dealership in this Northern Chicago suburb, he was quoted as saying, “You get what you pay for” about the ads that he appeared in. In the ad, Weil said, “I’ll make it worth your Weil.”

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‘The Alice Network’ by Kate Quinn: Intriguing Historical Fiction Spy Novel Based on Little Known Facts


“The Alice Network” by Kate Quinn is a beautifully written novel that combines several genres and does credit to them all. It’s about women spies, about romance, about determination, and occasionally about men who wouldn’t believe them just because they were women.

The story alternates between the times of the two World Wars. In 1915, the reader meets Eve Gardiner, an intelligent young woman with a stutter, who because of her language ability — she speaks English, French and German — is recruited to be a spy for England. She is sent to France to work in the restaurant of a collaborator, an amoral man of fine taste who owns an equally fine restaurant frequented by the German officers.

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‘Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat’ by Patricia Williams: A Story about Overcoming Almost Insurmountable Odds


The story of “Rabbit” is a gritty account of a childhood that is something out of a nightmare. Yet the book is also full of inspiration and hope. It’s depressing but at the same time filled with humor. Patricia Williams’ story is certainly one filled with extremes.

The author’s life began with a mother who was ill-equipped to care for five children. Her childhood was filled with alcohol, drugs, and abuse — physical, sexual and emotional. By the age of 15, she was the mother of two children. Her nickname for her whole young life was “Rabbit.” The fact that she managed to turn her life around is a testament to her fortitude, her determination, and surprisingly, her sense of humor.

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