Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Accident Review


When Lola spills orange juice all over a nice, white armchair she exclaims "I've ruined everything! I'll hide in the library! They have books and bathrooms. And I'll stay there till I'm a grownup." But on the way to the library one catastrophe follows another and soon Lola's gathered a large group. When everything seems to go wrong a little bird whispers "accident" and shows everyone how to own up to their mistakes make it all better again instead of running away.

I would have spent hours pouring over the details in these illustrations as a kid. There's so many small, humorous moments in the background. Above all I like that it emphasizes that accidents are okay and everyone from kids to adults can have them. The characters' overreactions are funny, but in the end the message that is clear that calmly admitting your mistake and helping to fix it is the way to go.

Adults might appreciate this episode from Hidden Brain talking about how language can influence the way we see the world. Part of it focuses on how our language around accidents affects where we place the blame and how we remember them.

Just look at all the hilarious details in one page of this book:

Accident by Andrea Tsurumi: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Under a Painted Sky Review

Book talk: One day Samantha had a happy, stable life running a dry goods store with her father and dreaming of moving to New York to play violin. The next her father and her home are lost in a fire, and when their land lord tries to take advantage of her, she kills him in self defense. Of course, no jury is going to side with a Chinese girl who killed a White man, so she's forced to flee or face the noose. Together with a runaway slave, Annamae, Samantha sets her sights on the freedom of the west. Traveling as two girls wouldn't be safe, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy. The trail holds more surprises than they anticipated, including two cowboys they team up with for safety. But will the four of them be able to make it out West, and what will happen if the boys discover their secret?

Rave: I confess that I love a good Western and it was nice to find one with POC leads. The characters are well drawn and the tension delicious as they start to develop crushes while being forced to maintain their gender masquerade. There's all the excitement you'd expect to find on the trail as well as interesting commentary about the times that you wouldn't find in a white-washed western. To top it all off, the prose is a beautiful.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 7th and up looking for historical adventure and gender swapping tales.

Topics and Trends: gender swapping, westerns, people of color, #weneeddiversebooks, #ownvoices, romance, musicians, violin

Bonus Quotes:

“No one ever injured an eye by looking at the bright side.”

“Maybe life just tastes sweeter after you’ve licked death.”

Source: school library

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee: buy it or check it out today!

Friday, February 2, 2018

The Scorpion Rules Review

The Scorpion Rules (Prisoners of Peace, #1)

Book talk: When the UN gave responsibility for world peace over to an artificial intelligence, it came up with a solution that no one anticipated. Instead of using atomic bombs for deterrence it works on a smaller, more personal scale. Every world leader is required to give a child over to be raised and taught in the prefecture. All of their needs are seen to, they get a wonderful education among the elite, and if their parents declare war on another country, they are executed. Those in power have always been willing to send other people's children off to die in wars, but they are far more hesitant to sacrifice their own. The system worked. Until the sacrificed children decide to fight back.

Rave: This book has a lot of meaty moral questions to dig your teeth into, but the pace is never slowed by them. The diverse cast was created with care and they each shine in their own way. The AI running the place is perhaps the most interesting character of all. I absolutely adored this.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students 8th & up looking for a science fiction adventure.

Topics and Trends: politicians, royalty, AI, dystopia


Bonus Quote:

“Did you know, the man who invented the atomic bomb once said that keeping peace through deterrence was like keeping two scorpions in one bottle? You can picture that, right? They know they can't sting without getting stung. They can't kill without getting killed. And you'd think that would stop them...But it doesn't."

Source: school library

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

This Song Will Save Your Life Review

This Song Will Save Your Life

Book talk: Elise's sophomore year of high school is not going as planned. Over the summer she dedicated herself to becoming popular. She studied popularity and all the latest trends like she would prepare for a final, but when school starts she fails so badly that her social standing drops even lower. She comforts herself by sneaking out of the house for late-night walks. When she stumbles on a secret, under-ground dance club she discovers a group of people who actually like her and a way to get out of her head and enjoy herself. Even more importantly, she discovers a passion for DJing. Soon she's leading a double life: social outcast high-school student by day, popular up-and-coming DJ by night. But she can't keep it up forever, and sparks will fly when the two halves of her life come crashing together.

Rave: The characters in this novel are so well drawn and I was completely sucked in by Elise's emotional journey. It captures adolescence and the messy path to self-acceptance perfectly.  I have never been one to frequent discotheques, but I enjoyed learning about this subculture and the world of DJs. Elise's narrative voice brings lightness and humor to a heavy subject.

Every book its reader: I'd give it to students looking for a realistic, character-focused book. It's particularly good for those with an interest in DJing. 8th and up.

Topics and Trends: DJ, club culture, depression, suicide, popularity, romance


Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Image result for this song will save your life

Bonus Quotes:

“Throughout it all, you are still, always, you: beautiful and bruised, known and unknowable.”

“Sometimes you have to give up something you are to get to who you want to be.”

“I was smiling like a crazy person because I has just made a hundred people dance, I had just made a hundred people scream, I had just made a hundred people happy. I, Elise, using my own power, had made people happy.”

“Imagination is so often no match for the absurdity, the randomness, the tragedy of reality.”

Source: school library

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales: buy it or check it out today!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The Trouble in Me Review

The Trouble in Me

Book talk: Jack is sick of life. He's sick of moving. He's sick of being bullied by his classmates and father. He's sick of feeling weak and powerless. Then his new neighbor gets back from his second stint at juvie. Gary Pagoda is everything that Jack isn't: tough, cool, openly rebellious, and utterly fearless. Jack doesn't care where Gary leads him, as long as it means getting as far away from his old life as possible. Soon Gary has Jack lying to a parole officer, performing stupidly dangerous stunts, and feeding his inner pyromaniac. It will be a summer Jack will never forget, if he survives it.

Rave: This novel is based on events in the author's past and certainly provides a different perspective than your average YA novel. Reading about Gantos's exploits was horrifying and fascinating. It explores a crossroads in his life and the path he chose would eventually lead him to a federal prison. The events are rough, but the prose is beautiful and there are many poignant and sensitive moments in the novel, "I’d slink back to my room and curl up on the bed like a fish-hook and cry until I was rusty." That image hit me like a punch in the gut. This novel at the right time with the right teen could really change their life.

Every book its reader: I'd give this to students 7th and up looking for a misfit story with edge. It's a quick read with a powerful punch.

Topics and Trends: criminals, pyromania, memoir

Source: school library

The Trouble in Me by Jack Gantos

Friday, December 15, 2017

Brief Reviews Fall 2015 part 2

Fuzzy Mud This eco-thriller about genetically-engineered material that gets loose and infects a town is a fun read. I think it would be perfect for struggling readers because it's high interest, fast-paced, and short. It wasn't my cup of tea. It didn't spend enough time on the characters and the plot resolved too quickly for my tastes. It could have easily been a much longer novel without any filler and I found the glimpses of something more frustrating. There aren't enough good high-interest, low reading level books out there though so I appreciate it for what it is. Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar: buy it or check it out today!

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)
One of the benefits of being behind in my book reviews is that the distance gives me the chance to see which books really stayed with me. I remember enjoying this book, and I gave it four stars on Good Reads but I honestly could not remember a single thing about it. After reading other reviews, some things have come back, but not much. This is a good romance with a classic Pride & Prejudice plot. They misjudge each other & spend much of the story hating each other and trading barbs until they fall madly in love with each other. I don't remember there being anything specific that I disliked about the book. It's nothing ground-breaking or particularly memorable though. These Broken Stars by Amy Kaufman and Meagan Spooner: buy it or check it out today!

You and Me and HimI like the premise of this book, but I did not like the execution. All the characters were just so petty and mean-spirited. It makes me wonder why they were friends to begin with when they're so quick to throw each other away. In the end, I didn't like any of them and so I didn't really care what happened to them. You and Me and Him by Kris Dinnison: buy it or check it out today!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Ice Breaker Review

Ice Breaker (The Hidden, #1)

Book talk: The Oyster has been sailing for 300 years without any contact from the outside world. If they had a purpose once, no one can remember it. The ship has broken down into three warring factions with parents passing their prejudices onto their children for generations. Petrel is the only one without a faction or a family. Her parents committed a great crime and were thrown overboard. She survives by knowing the ship and all its hiding places better than anyone else. She sneaks down secret passageways and steals to survive. Everything changes when they find a half-frozen boy abandoned on an iceberg. How he got out there is a mystery, but he will surely die if they don't take him aboard. Still, many want to leave this outsider to freeze. But not Petrel. She knows how it feels to be abandoned and alone, and she's determined to save him. If anyone knows how to survive and evade capture on the ship, it's her. This mysterious boy will put all her talents and her courage to the test.

Rave: I liked the hints at the dystopian world and how it came to be instead of a lengthy exposition that explains everything. The world of the ship is fascinating and has a gritty sense of something that's carried on long past its time and is hanging on by sheer force of will. The boy's inner conflict is well-portrayed and Petrel is an endearing character reminiscent of a scrappy, Dickensian street urchin. I love sailing stories and the ship is a great background for the twisting plot. There's a lot of meaty themes explored from identity to friendship to faith. The story takes a bit of time to really get going, but I'm looking forward to how it will unfold in the sequel.

Every book its reader:
I'd give this to students 4th grade and up with the patience for an adventure story that's slow to heat up.

Topics and Trends: robots, religion, ships

Source: school library

Ice Breaker by Lian Tanner: buy it or check it out today!