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Monday, January 15, 2018

All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. CookPerry T. Cook is 11 years old and loves hanging out with his mom.  Before and after school, he hugs his mom.  He says good bye to her before he goes to school.  He comes home, finishes his homework with his mom, eats and goes to bed.  All that sounds normal until you know that his mom lives in Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in Surprise, Nebraska.  Zoey, Perry's best friend, lives outside the prison.  She and Perry fend off the teasing and taunting of the bullies at school.

Zoey's stepfather, Thomas VanLeer, the local district attorney gets Perry out of the prison by becoming his foster parent.  Perry slowly finds the right and wrong things to do in the VanLeer house.  Mr. VanLeer wants to help Perry.  And by help, he really means doing nothing at all to look into his mom's file as her parole hearing approaches.  It's up to Perry to help his mom get a parole hearing at all.  He takes risks to get information even though he knows that his mom may not get released. 

Perry shows emotional courage and bravery while fighting to get his mom released.  While sneaking around behind Thomas VanLeer 's back getting evidence that could prove his mother's innocence, he makes you believe that love can be the best reason to try. 

This book made me think about what defines a happy home for a child.   Perry uses his maturity and patience to move between the worlds of Blue River Co-Ed Correctional Facility and the outside home of the VanLeer foster home. 

This book is for readers grades 5 to 7, The Warden's Daughter by Jerry Spinelli  might appeal.  Cammie O'Reilly, lives in a prison with her father, the warden.  Although Perry lives in our generation, Cammie lives in the 1950's with the same set of good and bad things to deal with in a prison population of inmates.  They see the same mean, petty people and same innocent inmates who are trying to reach their goals. 

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Dash by Kirby Larson

DashThe story Dash takes place at the very start of America's involvement into World War II.  So many great historical fiction stories have been written about this era, including the Holocaust in Europe, but not so many about Japanese internment that took place right here in America.  It's hard to even imagine what it would be like to be forced to move out of your home and relocate to a "camp" for the sole reason of your ancestry, but that's exactly what happened to thousands of Japanese Americans and their families after the Pearl Harbor attack.

Eleven year old Mitsi was heartbroken to leave her home, school, "friends" (you'll understand why I put that in quotation marks as you read the story), and most especially, her beloved dog, Dash, when her family had to relocate.  She tried everything to keep him with her, including writing a letter to General DeWitt, the general in charge of relocation, begging him to change the rules about pets.  The answer was, of course, no.  Finally, Mitsi asks a trusted neighbor, Mrs. Bowker, to take care of Dash.

Throughout her time at the camp, Mitsi keeps in touch with Dash through letters with Mrs. Bowker.  This keeps her spirits high for the most part, but other things about her family and all the changes they must endure continue to get her down.

The story ends on a happy note for Mitsi and Dash, but we really don't find out what happens to her family and their situation.  You'll need to read the Author's Notes to find out, because this story was based on true events about a girl and her dog, Chubby.

I highly recommend this book.  Aside from the obvious theme of injustice and fear, family situations, bullying, and most importantly friendship have important messages in this story.  It is written in a true and authentic voice of an eleven year old girl and it also teaches a valuable history lesson along the way.  I hope you enjoy reading this wonderful book.

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Monday, January 01, 2018

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic by Ursula Vernon

Hamster Princess 2: Of mice and MagicReluctant princess Harriet Hamsterbone is back in the second Hamster Princess book, Of Mice and Magic, where Harriet (slightly less invincible than previously, but no less adventurous) and Mumphry, her fearless battle-quail, run into a fairy in the woods who sends them on a quest to save twelve princesses who can't stop dancing. They dance through their shoes every night, and no prince has been able to figure out how or where they are going. Harriet agrees to go check it out (apparently, the future of the Hamster Kingdom depends on it, also she's bored) and runs into an old friend, a ridiculously color-coordinated castle, and twelve tired princesses named after months of the year (August is her favorite, she seems pretty sensible).

Even though she can't really go cliff diving anymore (darn), Harriet is still a fearless, hysterical protagonist who has fantastic adventures without any of that mushy love stuff. This book is perfect for anyone who fell in love with Harriet in her first adventure, Harriet the Invincible, or who loves adventuring princesses, talking rodents, and snappy one liners.

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Monday, December 25, 2017

Restart by Gordon Korman

Restart What if you were a bully who everyone was scared to even look at in the school hallways?  What if you were the star football player who suddenly has to stop playing football?  What if you woke up one day and couldn't remember your life?  Well, meet Chase Ambrose, because this has just happen to him.

During the summer right before school begins, Chase falls off the roof of his house, breaks an arm and suffers a concussion which results in amnesia.  He cannot remember anything about his 13 year life.  Can you imagine waking up and not knowing your family?  As he gets ready to go back to school, he starts to have pieces of his memory coming back but not enough that help him make any sense of his life.  He walks down the hall and kids avoid him, except for Aaron and Bear, who are kind of over the top and not very nice people.  Chase doesn't really want anything to do with them but he feels that if they were friends before, he should still try to hang around with them.  He becomes interested in the video club whose members are considered geeks or nerds.  Chase struggles with his former self and how he appears to be now.  People are having a hard time believing he has changed.  Has he?

I have become a huge Gordon Korman fan.  I loved his last Mastermind trilogy.  In this book he takes on the topic of bullying  and if someone really can change their life by taking responsibility for their actions if given the chance. It talks about friendships.  In middle school going into high school, some friendships stay strong while others take different paths.  In this story, Chase is consistently thrown into situations where he has to choose to do the right thing, and this effects the friendship with his old friends.  Also, the style of writing is told in first person from different characters points of view.  This is a great book to read as a read-aloud since it would lead to rich discussion about bullies, the power of forgiveness, choosing to be kind and retribution.  It not only addresses how a bullying but also the steps the person being bullied may have to go through to move forward with their life.

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Monday, December 18, 2017

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall

The Seventh Most Important ThingArtie is mad.  He is mad that his dad died.  He is furious that his mom got rid of his dad's corduroy coat.  She even put his dad's Harley-Davidson hat in the pile for the local junk man to find.  When he sees that the local junk collector, James Hampton, is wearing that special hat, his anger rises.  He finds the nearest heavy item, a brick, and throws it at the junk man.  He injures the arm of the junk man and runs away.

The judge sentences Artie to collecting neighborhood junk for 120 hours of community service while James Hampton nurses his arm back to health.  It gets worse when Artie shows up to work.  He has to take broken shopping cart  and find specific things on the list.  So, off he goes to find light bulbs, foil, mirrors, pieces of wood, glass bottles, coffee cans, and cardboard.   Only the thought of going back to juvenile hall and being with mean kids keeps him on task as he looks through all the garbage.  Little did Artie know that he would end up getting the name of James Hampton known worldwide.

This book had a set of believable and inspirational characters who take old things and make them new again.  Artie changes into a more mature teen who gets just the right consequence for his actions.

For more books with emotional richness, Fuzzy Mud  by Louis Sachar is perfect for readers in grades 3 to 5.  In this book, two kids find a genetically modified substance that quickly creates some real health problems for the quiet town.   For kids in grades 4 to 6, I also liked The Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.  Carol, a young teen, has to deal with her grandfather's dementia.  How she comes to believe in her grandfather's vision of reality will bring you to tears.  Hankie alert!  Finally, readers might like book or book on CD, All Rise For the Honorable Perry T. Cook.  I love the different voices of the reader.  The story will also keep you reading.  Perry is eleven years old and lives with his mom in a prison for nonviolent offenders.  When he is given a foster home assignment with his only friend and school, he feels many emotions such surprise and anger as he adjusts to live on the outside.  This is ideal for readers in grades 5 to 7. 

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Sit by Deborah Ellis

SitSit is a very unique book.  It's a series of eleven mostly unrelated short stories that all start with the main character sitting on a chair, bench, fence, even a toilet!  The stories aren't really about sitting, but they are about thinking.  Each story has a situation where some pretty deep thinking needs to be done.  The characters are faced with something that has happened or is happening in their lives, like the separation of parents, injustice in government, unfair treatment, and even the Holocaust.  Does this book sound deep and thought provoking?  You bet it is!

When I picked up Sit I really didn't know what to expect.  It was on the new book shelf and it looked different and interesting.  It's a short book, and a pretty fast read, but it really packs a punch!  The central message of Sit is to take a few minutes to think about a way to find the courage to change something in your life or in the life of someone else.  Its very inspirational, and hopefully makes the reader think about his or her own life.  It really got me thinking too. 

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Monday, December 04, 2017

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

PashminaPashmina is the story of Indian-American teen Priyanka "Pri" Das, a budding comic artist who has a lot of unanswered questions about her heritage. Who is her father, and why did her mother leave India? Why won't her mother talk about her past at all? What was India like? But her mother won't answer any questions about anything related to India or her father. One day, Pri finds a beautiful pashmina shawl in a suitcase, and when she wraps it around her shoulders, it shows her a beautiful world unlike any she has seen before. Through her magical trips to India with the help of the pashmina shawl, Pri is left with more questions than answers -- if India is so beautiful, why did her mother leave? And most importantly: how can she go back, this time without the help of the pashmina shawl?

Pashmina is full of rich description and complicated family dynamics. From Pri's unofficial family in the states composed of her mother's friends to her frustration with her unknown and unspoken heritage, Pashmina will resonate with kids who feel like they don't fit in their own skin, country, or town. All of the adults keep secrets from Pri which eventually are explained, and the magical pashmina serves as a vehicle to shed truth and light on difficult subjects, to bring some sense of justice to the narrative, and to show the difference between idealized cultures and reality. This was such a good story, and I really enjoyed it! I would recommend it to anyone who likes history, family stories, or any kind of magical realism.

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