‘Captain Superlative!’ by J. S. Puller; ‘Life is too Short to be Anything Less…’

captainsuperlative

“Captain Superlative!” is not the main character in this middle grade novel by J. S. Puller. She is, however, the inspiration and cause for the change Janey, a quiet, shy, and practically invisible middle school student, experiences over the course of this beautifully written and moving novel.

Janey’s mother died when she was nine, and since then she’s pretty much existed by drifting through school and not getting noticed. She narrates that she is “as unimportant as air. And equally invisible.” Someone who is not invisible at school is Dagmar, the soccer champion who plays so hard she wears the bruises to prove it. Dagmar is not only an expert at playing soccer, she’s truly an expert at being cruel. Her favorite target is Paige, who is as short and dark as Dagmar is tall and blonde. The interactions that Janey witnesses and narrates are terrible.

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‘Whale in a Fishbowl’ by Troy Howell & Richard Jones Is a Touching Picture Book about Belonging

whale in a fishbowl

“Whale in a Fishbowl” By Troy Howell and Richard Jones is a picture book that children will love. They will intuitively know that whales don’t belong in fishbowls. They will know that Wednesday, the whale who lives in a huge fishbowl in the middle of the busy city certainly does not belong there.

And Wednesday knows that — deep down. But the fishbowl is the only home she has ever known. When she occasionally catches a glimpse of the sea, her heart leaps, although she doesn’t know why.  She just leaps to see that tiny speck of blue.

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‘All Our Wild Wonder: A Poem’ by Sarah Kay and Sophia Janowitz

wildwonder

“All Our Wild Wonder” is a small book, but the brilliant tangerine cover surrounds the rectangle containing the title and an illustration of a hand holding a dandelion that is releasing its seeds into the world. It’s a small package containing a powerful poem.

At the center of the poem is Mrs. Ribeiro, “an Indian woman the size of a nightlight,” who glided through the school so effortlessly that children thought she floated. This diminutive principal was so devoted to the students at her school that she would leave meetings whenever a child needed her — even just to read to, or to show a gold star, or to see a finished project.

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‘My Red Velvet Cape’ by Dana Sullivan Is a Marvelous Mixup for a Superhero-Loving Child

redvelvet

A picture book that will cheer up any prospective birthday boy or girl is “My Red Velvet Cape” by fabulous author/illustrator Dana Sullivan. There is so much to love about Sullivan’s newest picture book including the misunderstanding (Sullivan loves misunderstandings, just check out “Ozzie and the Art Contest“), the incredibly hip mom and grandma (go hip grandmas!), the bright and colorful watercolor and ink illustrations, and the sweet ending.

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‘Ozzie and the Art Contest’ by Dana Sullivan

ozzie

In “Ozzie and the Art Contest,” Dana Sullivan teaches young readers some very important life lessons. Ozzie, a bright blue dog, is very excited when his teacher announces that there will be an art contest. Ozzie loves to draw and he is sure he will win.

He quickly reads the instructions on the way home and uses his skills in folding paper to make a paper airplane out of the instruction sheet. Once home, he begins to draw his picture of a goat. His good friend agrees to model for the picture. Ozzie just knows he’ll win the contest — he knows a lot about goats!

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‘The Summer of Broken Things’ by Margaret Peterson Haddix Illustrates What Makes Family in this Touching Young Adult Novel

broken things

In “The Summer of Broken Things,” Margaret Peterson Haddix departs from her beloved sci-fi stories, and she includes no hidden children, just two teenagers from very different families — and very different socio-economic backgrounds — who are going to spend the summer together in Spain. But there is something hidden from their past.

Although Avery and Kayla have known each other since birth, it hasn’t been a close relationship. Originally, Avery was told that Kayla’s mother was friends with her nanny. But even after Avery no longer needed the nanny, Kayla’s mother still brought gifts for Avery at holidays. When Avery’s dad is going to Spain for the summer, he suggests that Avery and a friend go with him. She’s stunned that the person accompanying them isn’t really a friend, it’s Kayla Butts from the middle of nowhere.

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‘The Night Dairy’ by Veera Hiranandani: An Historical Fiction Middle Grade Novel About the Partition of India

the night diary

In “The Night Diary” by Veera Hiranandani, readers will get a chance to learn about a piece of history that is not often included in children’s books — the partition of India. In fact, this adult reader learned much about that historic event.

While many adults know that upon gaining independence from Great Britain, India was divided into India and Pakistan, one a Hindu country and the other Muslim, adults like me know little about the actual event and how smoothly (or not) the transition and partition went. It did not go well.

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‘The Window’ by Amelia Brunskill Is a Beautifully Written YA Mystery

thewindow

How did Anna die? That’s the question that her twin sister, Jess, can’t get out of her head in the novel “The Window” by Amelia Brunskill. Identical twins Anna and Jess were inseparable growing up, but lately, not so much. In fact, after Anna’s death, Jess starts to investigate what really happened, and what she uncovers is that Anna was deliberately increasing the distance between them.

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