Willodeen by Katherine Applegate Award-winning author Katherine Applegate's last series, "Endling," was about the near-extinction of a species. In her newest magical novel, "Willodeen," she presents an alternative world with strange, exotic creatures. As in our own world, some creatures in this magical one are cute, and others are not only ugly; they smell atrocious. … Continue reading ‘Willodeen’ by Katherine Applegate; because Nature knows more than we do
Pony by R.J. Palacio While the plot of "Pony" by R. J. Palacio reminded me a bit of another middle grade book about a pony, "Some Kind of Courage" by Dan Gemeinhart, the stories are quite different apart from being historical fiction with both boys having a horse that they love dearly. Each story is … Continue reading ‘Pony’ by R. J. Palacio is a superb new novel about devotion
Sugar Town Queens by Malla Nunn In "Sugar Town Queens," author Malla Nunn takes us on a journey to the slums of South Africa, where fifteen-year-old Amandla lives with Annalisa, her white mother. Where they live, in the slum called Sugar Town for its proximity to the sugar cane fields, her mother is the only … Continue reading ‘Sugar Town Queens’ by Malla Nunn is an emotional tale of familial discrimination and the slums of South Africa
The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones After reading several novels in which people aren't who they appear to be and the plots kind of blur together, I worried that "The Guilt Trip" by Sandie Jones would be another disappointment. I had really enjoyed her previous books: "The Other Woman," "The First Mistake" and "The Half … Continue reading ‘The Guilt Trip’ by Sandie Jones: Is anyone NOT guilty?
The Therapist by B.A. Paris The title "The Therapist" is a big part of the mystery itself. Author B.A. Paris lets us know, first through occasional first person posts from someone who is obviously a therapist, that the identity of the therapist is a mystery. We have no idea who the therapist is, nor do … Continue reading ‘The Therapist’ by B. A. Paris is a marvelous mystery
Her Perfect Life by Hank Phillippi Ryan The word "perfect" has many connotations. We dream of the perfect vacation, the perfect home, the perfect family, the perfect job. But for each of us, that word, perfect, has a different meaning. In "Her Perfect Life," Hank Phillippi Ryan presents a main character, Lily Atwood, whose life … Continue reading ‘Her Perfect Life’ by Hank Phillippi Ryan; what does it take to be perfect?
Spy School at Sea by Stuart Gibbs I asked a student who was a huge fan of the Spy School series if I could jump into the Stuart Gibbs Spy School series without having read the first few novels. He said that I'd be too confused. I believed him. Shame on me. I jumped into … Continue reading ‘Spy School at Sea’ by Stuart Gibbs is the latest in the middle grade series for lovers of espionage and good writing
Defending Britta Stein by Ronald H. Balson In "Defending Britta Stein" by Ronald H. Balson, attorney Catherine Lockhart and her husband, private investigator Liam Taggert, are the actors whose actions bring about justice in an unlikely manner. Through these two characters, both well known to Balson fans, we are privy to the history of a … Continue reading ‘Defending Britta Stein’ by Ronald H. Balson: thrilling courtroom drama and history about how the Danish saved the Jews in WWII
Tips for Magicians by Celesta Rimington To be honest, I wasn't expecting much from "Tips for Magicians," a new middle grade book by Celesta Rimington. The title sounded cute—but I realized the book is much more than "cute." It's a powerful and touching story of a boy who loses his mother in an unexpected accident, … Continue reading ‘Tips for Magicians’ by Celesta Rimington is a superb middle grade book that deals with overcoming loss, family and friendship
Cats. Can't live with them; can't live without them. At least some of us feel that way. I adore my black cat, Blacky, yet my other black cat Natty is a big pain in the neck. He jumps on us, delights in knocking over things on our nightstands, and eats any flowers I bring into … Continue reading Two cat picture books about the joys — and the problems — of the cats we love
While most adults were alive and watching as the horror of 9/11 flashed before us on a television screen, there is a new generation of people, some young adults, who were not alive when the US was attacked on that infamous day. I remember that I was in my first year teaching fifth grade. When … Continue reading Two picture books that share uplifting memorials of 9/11
The Family Plot by Megan Collins In the very first sentence of "The Family Plot," by Megan Collins, the first person narrator shares the fact that she was named Dahlia after Black Dahlia, an actress who was gruesomely murdered. Likewise, her siblings were named after other murder victims, including her twin brother, Andy, named after … Continue reading ‘The Family Plot’ by Megan Collins is a twisted story of a family history built on lies