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Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

four children           
all boys         
all adopted

When two men adopt them, misadventures don't occur. It's just the normal stuff boys go through day after day. They are now in grades ranging from Kindergarten through Sixth Grade. Sam wants to be the best at soccer. He is of African-American heritage and plays the role of big brother quite well. Max and Eli are the same age. Frog (what a name - you'll find out) is the youngest and he was born in India. They really love and respect each other. The holidays and school year show what they experience. It is the neighbor that they have a hard time connecting and communicating with for a long time. The "grumpy" neighbor is actually a hero of the Vietnam War.

This is one of those fictions that take place in modern times. Yes, screen time is actually limited. All characters get a chance to show their perspective. What a chance to show how children literally have to run from one activity to another. That's where many of the misadventures occur in this amusing yet meaningful fiction.

      * 2017 Bluestem Award Nominee*

Friday, July 08, 2016

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M Draper

Stella by StarlightStella and her younger brother, Jojo, witness firsthand a burning at a Klan rally very close to their home. There is more burning to follow. This historical fiction takes place in 1932 in segregated North Carolina. Stella is undaunted almost to the point of being fearless. She even goes with her father when he registers to vote and when he actually votes. She wants to be a writer. She does her best writing at night. Stella notices injustices. Everyone helps each other and their resilient spirit shines. Stella, herself, is a hero more that once.

Imagine having no shoes. Imagine having to pay money for registering to vote. Imagine having to walk past the library and a school just for white people. Sharon M. Draper does a most excellent job in giving authentic voices to so many characters. Sharon M. Draper even did her homework. It wasn't too long ago the the words "under God" were added to the Pledge of Allegiance. She even noticed that detail. I know Sharon M. Draper must be tired of all the awards that have been bestowed upon her and her literary work. May I add one more thing? Thank you, Sharon M. Draper, for giving Stella a heart that shines.

                  * Rebecca Caudill 2017 Award Nominee*

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Wonder Woman: Super Hero High by Lisa Yee

Wonder Woman: Super Hero HighWonder Woman longs to attend the prestigious Super Hero High after watching the recruitment video.  Despite her mother's Hippolyta's objections, Wonder Woman leaves Paradise Island to attend her new school.  She is excited to be able to see more of the world.  At school she meets a wide array of super heroes as well as future super villains.  Her classes consist of flying, use of weapons and fashion design (fashionable superhero wear is very important!).  Her roommate is Harley, a budding reporter with her own web station HQTV and she makes friends with Bumblebee, Hawkeye, Katana, and Poison Ivy.  But not everyone is her friends as she receives threatening letters and emails from someone who doesn't want her at Super Hero High. 

For those of you who love super heroes, this maybe the new series for you.  The book ends with an introduction to another female super hero.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Safest Lie by Angela Cerrito

The Safest LieThe truth is the safest lie.  These are words that nine-year-old Anna Bauman lived by during World War II in Poland. The story begins in the Warsaw Ghetto with Anna and her parents during the Nazi invasion of Poland.  They are Jewish and forced to live in the ghetto with little food, clothing and other basic necessities.  Anna draws the attention of Jolanta, a woman who helps smuggle Jewish children out of the ghetto.  Jolanta follows Anna home one day and then her world begins to change as she becomes Catholic Anna Karwolska, not Jewish Anna Bauman.  Her mother begins to train her in the Catholic prayers.  One day Anna is smuggled out of the ghetto and sent to a farmhouse where she is taught more on the traditions, the prayers and the catechism every Catholic child would know.

Anna is then sent to go live in a Catholic orphanage away from Warsaw where she spends a year until she is moved to live with a foster family out in the Polish countryside.  Her family is warm and loving and Anna begins to feel safe here but still does not reveal her true identify.  Stephan, Sophia and Jerzy have their own secrets they are hiding.  What future will await Anna when the war ends?

This book is based on the true story of Irena Sendler, whose group, Zegota had smuggled more than twenty-five hundred Jewish children out of the ghettos so that they could have a chance at a life.  Based on her research, Angela Cerrito tells us the story of Anna Bauman who survives the Holocaust thanks to the courageous efforts of Sendler and the network of people who rescued children just like her. The library also has a nonfiction picture book by Susan Goldman Rubin entitled Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto if you'd like to learn a little more about Polish social worker.

The perspective of this book was new to me.  The other books on the Holocaust dealing with children had mainly been about life in the camps or in hiding or just staying at home with their mothers while their fathers and older brothers were at war.  By telling the story through Anna's eyes, the author helped capture all the tension, fear, constant hunger and suffering that children experienced during the war as well as how some lost their Jewish identities.  The book also shows the mixed emotions parents must have felt when their children were offered the possibility of safety.

Cerrito interviewed Irena Sendler before she wrote the book as well as read hundreds of transcribed interviews of children who survived the Holocaust.  She did her research at the Jewish Historical Institute in Poland. 

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander combines sports, reading and boys in this novel in verse. Nick is a star soccer player. When things don't work out as expected, things get intense and life gets interrupted. His father is a linguistics professor. There is irony in the fact that Nick doesn't "do" reading. His father makes sure that he reads the dictionary. The words help Nick. Sometimes life throws you too much: bullying, divorce, emergency hospital visit.

I made sure that the pages wouldn't turn to the end so the ending wouldn't be divulged. I just knew that it was going to be unique. I am sorry, but I have to say that I wrote down some of the awesome words. Nick/Kwame made their own dictionary entries for some words at the bottom of some of the pages. You don't have to run to get a dictionary. The definitions and Nick's interpretations are at the bottom of the page. You don't waste a second.
I forgot to mention the creative use of fonts.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Stick Cat: A Tail of Two Kitties by Tom Watson

Stick Cat: a Tale of Two KittiesTom Watson, the creator of Stick Dog, has created another stick animal series for all you cat lovers out there.  Adventure number 1 in the new Stick Cat series will have you wondering what your cat does when you are not home during the day.  In this story, Stick Cat and his friend, Edith, live on the 23rd floor in a building in the city.  During the day, Stick Cat and Edith visit with each other through a hole they made in the wall under the sink in the bathroom.  They have their daily routine but today is different.  Typically they listen to the pianos being tuned across the street from their apartment building by a man they call Mr. Music.  Mr. Music plays beautiful songs once the piano is tuned.  But today something strange happens and Mr. Music is trapped under the lid of a grand piano and cannot get out.  Stick Cat knows it's up to him and Edith to save Mr. Music but how can they get across the street to the other building?  Read to find out how they concoct a plan to help rescue Mr. Music.

Even though I am not a cat lover, I did enjoy this book.  Stick Cat is clever  and kind while Edith is the silly sidekick.  Edith keeps complaining she is getting larger and has difficulty fitting back through the holes they make, so I'm wondering if little kitties will be coming in one of the future adventures.  I may be wrong because she may just love her cat food, but it does make me wonder just enough to want to read the next book.  If you'd like to learn more about Tom Watson, Stick Dog or Stick Cat, check out his website.

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Thursday, June 09, 2016

Audacity Jones to the Rescue by Kirby Larson

Audacity Jones to the RescueEleven-year old “Audacity Jones” – Audie – is a resident of Miss Maisie Witherton’s School for Wayward girls. She is the lynchpin that holds things together as she has assumed many responsibilities that Miss Witherton neglects. Audie’s spunk often results in her banishment to “The Punishment Room” – the Witherton library – where she reads voraciously. The appearance of Commodore Crutchfield, a wealthy businessman, and his desire to “adopt” an orphan change the course of Audie’s life. As the pair travel by chauffeured car from Indiana to Washington, D.C.

It turns out the Commodore has unsavory plans for Audie -- plans that involve the president of the United States and a sinister kidnapping plot. Before she knows it, Audie winds up in the White House kitchens, where she's determined to stop the Commodore dead in his tracks. Can Audie save the day before it's too late?

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