I’m Back!

Have you ever had to move to a new neighborhood, or change schools, or be set in any kind of new environment?  I don’t know about you, but I find it scary and stressful. How do you deal with changes? I get a bit on the manic side and hide in bluster.  So, I picked three stories that put at least one of the characters in a situation of intense change.

 

The first book is a bit fanciful, but the protagonist is believable and the story is amusing.

 

Clayton Stone, Facing Off

Ena Jones

Clayton Stone is a thirteen-year-old orphan living with his grandmother, Gran, who recruits him into the Special Services in Clayton Stone, At Your Service, where he solves a kidnapping. This time he must change his identity and transfer to an elite private school to protect the president’s son.  To make matters worse, his new school is playing against his old school in a playoff game to see which team goes to the Lacrosse Championship game. Things don’t go swimmingly for Clayton, who has to remember he is now Max Carrington.  He keeps over reacting to circumstances in his new school, but he does finally make friends with First Son, Kyle Hampton.  Together, with the help of two other kids, they figure out who is threatening Kyle, though, in the end, it turns out the bad guys are after another student.  The story is well-written and has plenty of surprises, in addition to humor, especially all the disguises Gran uses. Resourceful teachers will find several topics of discussions in their classrooms.  Loyalty, sportsmanship, patience and thinking through dilemmas are all good discussion topics.

BIBLIO: 2016, Holiday House, Ages 8 to 13, $16.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 9780823436484

 

The second book is set on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Oahu, but not in Honolulu. The reader gets a sense of the island without the glitz.

 

Juniors

Kaui Hart Hemmings

 

In the middle of her junior year of high school, Lea Lane moves from San Francisco

back to Hawaii where her actress mother is in a new TV show. Having spent her early childhood in Kailua, on Oahu Island near Honolulu, she knows the area and has kept in touch with Danny, a neighbor boy.  She is enrolled in a posh private school, thanks to her long-absent father, or so she’s been told.  The house her mother has rented for them is shoddy and in a not-so-nice neighborhood, but now they’ve been invited to use the guest cottage of an estate owned by long-standing friends of Lea’s mother. In fact, Mr. West was Lea’s mom’s boyfriend for a brief time, before he introduced her to the fellow who got her pregnant.  Lea feels awkward about the arrangement until she gets to know the West kids who are about her age.  As with all lives, things get complicated and Lea has to sort out what her true desires are.  The story is well told and intricate and has a good ending.  Lea grows a lot during the story.  The down side of the book is the easy acceptance the author has with letting the juvenile characters be promiscuous and happily get drunk and/or high.  A little more regret and the parents being a bit less lax in showing their children how to behave would have been nice. Lea, at least, shows some remorse for having succumbed to the booze and drugs.

BIBLIO: 2015, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Group, Ages 14 +, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-399-17360-8

 

You must read the third book with the spirit of letting your imagination run wild. There are lots of magical, mythical creatures parading across the pages. If you can’t allow yourself to believe in Unicorns and other such creatures, don’t bother with this book. I loved it, because, at all most 76 years of age, I still believe in Unicorns and Griffins.

 

Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater

Illustrated by Maggie Stiefvater

Pip Bartlett is spending the summer with her Aunt Emma at the Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures. She loves talking with the animals, though no-one else realizes she understands what the animals are saying.  Aunt Emma and her daughter, Callie, and Pip are going to the Triple Trident magical animal show and their neighbor, Tomas, is going with them.  Tomas is allergic to just about everything, but that doesn’t stop him from going places.  Callie, being a prissy teenager, is less than thrilled with going.  But the fun really ramps up when their friend Mr. Henshaw’s Show Unicorn gets a case of jangling nerves and won’t settle down for anyone.  That is until Pip takes the Unicorn, Regent Maximus, into a paddock filled with baby unicorns.  He begins to calm down as he tells the young ones all the trials and terrors that await them. They become his adoring entourage.  It’s a cute story and will certainly get the reader giggling.  Frequently, a page in the book is taken up by a description of some magical creature, with an amusing drawing.  The glimmerbeast subspecies called a rockshine, which turns invisible when frightened, is the first illustration.  It looks rather like a deranged sheep.  The story progresses with lots of mishaps to Regent Maximus and other creatures, but in the end, Regent Maximus wins the Triple Trident championship.  Even though the creatures are all mythical, the story can be used as a way discuss animal anatomy and ways to calm scared creatures.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc. Ages 8 to 12, $9.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-70929-3

Enjoy the post and let me know what’s going on with you.  Thanks, Sarah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing Reality Is Hard

As you know, I usually review three books each week on my blog, but this book of short stories deserves its own post. Do find a copy of this book to read.

I See Reality: Twelve Short Stories about Real Life

Compiled by Grace Kendall

It’s hard enough to break up with someone you’ve been dating, but when the boyfriend threatens to commit suicide or convinces you to stay together just for one more year until he graduates from high school or uses equally debilitating arguments, what is a person to do? “Three Imaginary Conversations with You,” by Heather Demetrios, drags a bit, but gets the point across that the boyfriend is obnoxious and manipulative.

The Downside of Fabulous,” by Kristin Elizabeth Clark, brings in to sharp focus trying to connect with a boyfriend when you’re gay, with well fleshed out characters are and gentle humor. And how does the main character, Chris, deal with the rejection by his heart throb, Tom? Chris owns up to his mistakes and to his being gay.

Skittles, the black cat, keeps the reader guessing as he tells “The Night of the Living Creeper,” by Stephen Emond, about a group of kids talking about who might a “creeper” in their group, looking for someone to sexually assault. When the party breaks up, the creeper makes himself known to the hostess, but she doesn’t take any of his nonsense.

Kekla Magoon’s entry is “Makeshift,” about a mixed-race girl, which focuses on the boxes we put people in. Her father beats her mother one time too many and so Kayse and her mom leave their nice suburban house for a cheap apartment in the heart of Harlem. Kayse’s mom is black and her biological dad is white, as is the man she calls Dad. But Kayse doesn’t like being called “Blanca” or white even though she never much thought about her race before. In Harlem, being white is bad.

Things You Get Over, Things You Don’t,” by Jason Schmidt, is a very powerful story about a school shooting, told from the viewpoint of Caleb who tries to help his gravely wounded girlfriend. When he does save her only discover she’ll probably be a paraplegic for the rest of her life, he thinks it’s all his fault. That he did the wrong thing by moving her to stop the bleeding from the exit wound in her back.

In the end, they are able to tell each other their true feelings.

The message of “Coffee Chameleon,” by Jay Clark, is that recovering from addictions of any kind is hard, but probably the hardest is the addiction to love, especially if it’s commingled with an addiction to prescription drugs is concisely told with good use of humor. Matt was introduced to prescription medication pills by his girlfriend Andi, but got so hooked on them he got his own prescription. Then Andi dumps him and he has to detox himself all alone. But he ends up going to a local coffee shop to get himself out of his head and meets a girl there who helps him recover.

Marcella Pixley’s “Hush,” is the story of a girl and her mother dealing with the death of the father/husband’s from AIDS. This story of the misguided lengths we go to in keeping loved ones safe from our fears and grief is crisply told. June ends up being the grown up when her mother becomes obsessed with keeping her daughter safe.

Can you imagine having to face the world knowing they know your brother took a gun to school and shot students to death? So Lily’s parents move to a new town to start a new life, but Lily is sure everyone will learn about the truth. Rather than try for the leading role in the school musical, Lily hides behind the stage curtain until a new guy in school won’t let her stay hide her talents in Trisha Leaver’s “Blackbird.”

Gone from this Place,” by Faith Erin Hicks, deals, in a graphic story format, with acknowledging one’s sexuality. A boy and girl have made it through high school by being the perfect couple, only now that they’re heading off the different colleges breaking up. They figure in college they can come out and be accepted for who they really are. It’s a good plan except for one detail. It never occurred to them there might be other homosexual kids in their high school and it’s only at the last minute they discover they’ve missing out on real love.

You know the girl or boy you’ve always had a crush on, but didn’t know how to approach and when you do finally get together, you both mess it up? That’s what Jordan Sonnenblick’s “The Sweeter the Sin” is about. The girl has a saying that the sweeter the sin the better the taste. Unfortunately, David and Elizabeth discover that “t’aint necessarily so.”

But the strongest story is simply called “Mistake” and tells the story of a teen couple having to deal with an abortion. Malcolm supports Angela when she makes the decision to abort and at first he doesn’t feel anything one way or another. Then he goes with her to the abortion clinic and begins to think about the baby. A part of him regrets their decision and he wonders if Angela can actually have the procedure.

The last story is about Jose, an illegal immigrant whose twin brother, Javier, switches places with him to save him from deportation. “The Good Brother” is written by Patrick Flores-Scott and will make you want to find a solution to the immigration problems this country is facing.

This book is a keeper.

BIBLIO: 2016, Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, Ages 14 +, $ 17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-374-30258-0

ISBN: 978-0-374-30259-7

No-one Is an Island

“No Man is an Island,” John Dunne’s poem is about humankind being better when working together, but what does that mean?  That we’re all social beings and need to interact? But how about the person suffering from severe autism.  Still, even an autistic person does need some kind of human interaction. And I expect we all feel isolated, whether we’re really alone on a deserted island or just new to a situation.  I hope the three books I’ve selected for this post confer that notion.

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The first one has to do with feeling unloved because of a perceived physical flaw.  We all feel that way at some point, don’t we?

A Different Me

Deborah Blumenthal

Allie Johnston is obsessed with the bump on her nose, which makes her feel ugly and hence unlovable.  She is smart and has some friends in school, but envies, Amber, the prettiest girl in the school, who seems to have the perfect life.  Allie sneers at camera-freak David Craig, who wears heavy eyeliner to school and she laughs about nerdy Florence.  She meets two girls on a plastic surgery website.  They live close to Manhattan and begin to spend time together, acting as a support group for planning their nose jobs.  Allie is required to mentor students in her English class and discovers that perfect Amber’s mother is suicidal and her father stays on the road for business because he can’t deal with his wife’s problems—so much for having the perfect life. Allie and Amber become friends, but then Amber goes to stay with her older sister when her mother is hospitalized, so Allie mentors David.  He, of course, has a very poignant reason for his eyeliner and paparazzi-like intrusions into other people’s lives.  Allie learns more and more about other people, discovering along the way that people admire her for the things she does and aren’t as bothered by the bump on her nose as she is.  She spends less and less time with her close friend, Jen, and in the end rather rudely tells her off.  This is a good read with quite a powerful message about believing in oneself.  There are lots of points in this book for classroom discussion.

BIBLIO: 2014, Albert Whitman & Company, Ages 13 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1573-0

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The second book is about learning to accept not just yourself, but those around you.  Life would be boring if we were all the same, wouldn’t it?  The thing is to accept other people’s differences.

First Day at Zoo School

Sarah Dillard

Illustrated by Sarah Dillard

Amanda, the panda, is very excited about starting school, but Alfred, the alligator, is not.  Unfortunately, Amanda changes her tune when she gets to the school yard.  Except for her, everyone has a best friend.  She’s sad until she sees Alfred standing by himself.  Ah ha!  A best friend for the panda.  Alfred is not quite as happy about the whole thing, in part because Amanda calls him Gator, instead of Alfred, and in part because Amanda is very bossy.  She loves to sit up front, but the alligator is sure he’s going to be called on by the teacher.  At lunch he tries to hide, but Amanda finds him.  The panda bosses Alfred all day long, but when she announces at the end of the school day that best friends always walk home together, the alligator yells at her.  He tells her he’s not walking from school with her and he’s not her best friend and his name is Alfred.  Amanda is crushed and Alfred feels awful.  The next day our panda friend is downhearted. Amanda tells the teacher she’s lost her spark. She and Alfred don’t speak all day long, until the alligator worries about the panda hurting herself while hanging upside down from a tree.  He tells her to come down because they can’t be best friends if her head bursts.  And the two are best friends again, but good ones. The illustrations are funny in the right parts, especially when Amanda’s question while she’s hanging from the tree is written upside down.  A good story to encourage children to be polite, caring and not bossy which children will want to read or hear over and over.

BIBLIO: 2014, Sleeping Bear Press, Ages 4 to 6, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-5836-890-7

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This third book may be a bit of a stretch, but it seems to me to about accepting oneself, but also accepting those around you.

Whatever After: Fairest of All

Sarah Mlynowski

Eleven-year-old Abby and her seven-year-old brother, Jonah, are living in a new neighborhood and going to a new school which is fine with Jonah.   Abby, on the other hand, is not happy about the changes.  For starters, the kids in her class don’t play tag the way she does. They play “Freeze Tag” instead.  Shortly after their move, Jonah wakes Abby up to tell her about the strange mirror in their basement.  In the hopes of getting Jonah to quit talking about the mirror, Abby follows him into the basement only to discover he’s right.  The mirror sucks them, some furniture and lots of law books into a different world.  Snow White’s world; where they stop her from eating the poisoned apple.  Ooops, realizes Abby, now Snow won’t be rescued by Prince Charming and won’t live “happily ever after.” So Abby and Jonah set about to correct their blunder, but Snow, of course, is confused and not of much help to begin with.  The tension ratchets up when Abby catches on that time in Fairy Book Land is faster than real time.  They have only so much time to fix Snow’s story and get home before their parents discover they’re missing.  Naturally, every plan they try goes awry, but eventually the siblings straighten out the story and connect Snow White and Prince Charming.  Best yet, they get back to their house before Mom and Dad notice they’ve been missing.  Abby also learns that life does have a way of changing, whether you want it to or not.  She decides that Freeze Tag might not be that bad.  Fun read, full of lots of humor.

BIBLIO: 2012, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $14.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-545-40330-6

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Please let me know what you think.  Much as I like having time to myself, I most decidedly don’t want to live on a deserted island.

 

In Honor of Scotty Andersen and his lovely Wife, Linda

 

After a well-fought battle to concur lung problems, Linda Martin Andersen’s beloved husband Scotty “shuffled off this mortal coil” and is now breathing easily.  So, sad as the topic may be, I thought I would talk about three stellar books written on the subject of dealing with death. I do hope you readers and your families are doing well.

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The first book is a well-deserved reprinting of Lois Lowry’s book, based in part on the death of her own sister.

A Summer to Die

Lois Lowry

Sometimes reading or rereading a well told story from years ago is so much better than reading a new story.  This book is indeed such a joy. Meg and her sister, Molly, move from their comfortable home in town where each has her own bedroom to a small cottage in the country where they must share a bedroom so their dad can finish the book he’s writing.  Neither girl is happy with the move at first, but then pretty Molly finds a boyfriend at her school and Meg meets an old man, Will Banks,  down the road who helps her find her way.  The family dynamic changes when Molly gets seriously ill and has to spend time in a hospital.  When she comes back, Molly is not the same and Meg doesn’t know why.  In the meantime Meg begins to take her photography more seriously, encouraged by Will Banks, who gives her his still good, German camera that he bought in WWII.  Will owns the three houses on his farm: the cabin he lives in; the cottage he rents to Meg’s family; and the large house he grew up in.  Unfortunately, his only living relative wants to sell the farm for a profit, saying Will can live his life out there.  When Will sells the large house to a nice young couple, Maria and Ben, his nephew threatens to sue him.  Will is key to Meg’s dealing with Molly’s impending death.  Plus, Maria and Ben want Meg to take pictures of the birth of their child.  Though she and her parents move back to their house in town after Meg’s dad finishes his book, Meg does keep in touch with Will, visiting him when the blue gentian blooms.  The book will make your heart sad and happy.

BIBLIO: 2016 (orig. 1977,) Houghton Mifflin Books for Children /Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ages 8 to 12, $8.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-0-395-25338-0

ISBN: 978-0-544-66841-6

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This book has so much going for it; I struggled to relate all the nuances. And, of course, having horses be a big part of the story certainly made me more enthusiastic.  I could envision the Cornwall area of England with much clarity and sympathized with not just the protagonists, but the lesser players.

 

One Silver Summer

Rachel Hickman

Alexander is a dreading the party downstairs on his secondary school’s ballroom floor.  He knows he’s going to be the center to attention, because, as future heir to the English throne, he always is.  But now his parents are divorcing and the news is spreading all over the British Isles, actually, the world.  Worst of all he learned of the pending divorce not through his parents, but a rapacious, gossip-mongering reporter. All he wants to do is to escape to his grandmother’s house in Cornwall and hide. However, when he does, he discovers a girl there who seems to be hiding also.  But Alex is so used to strangers, especially pretty young girls, wanted something from him—like be his queen—he is quite suspicious of the newcomer to his village.  And finding her trespassing on his grandmother, the Countess of Tremayne’s, estate makes him even more suspicious. Saskia, a.k.a. Sass, recently orphaned, is now living in the village with her uncle and recovering from her mother’s awful death in Brooklyn, NY.  Alex is attracted to her anyway, because she seems so innocent and appears to be ignorant of who he is.  Sass thinks he’s the stable boy because he’s always out riding horses or cleaning up after them.  He teaches her to ride and they spend more and more time together.  Sass meets Alex’s grandmother, but doesn’t know who she is or that she and Alex are related.  The plot is nicely convoluted and both Sass and Alex grow emotionally.  Though there’s a bit of a fairy tale quality, it’s more about understanding oneself.  It is a delightful read with a lovely feel for the Cornwall countryside.

BIBLIO: 2016, Scholastic Press/Scholastic, Inc., Ages 13+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-545-080893-4

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And what can be more heart wrenching than reading about a child realizing how soon she’s going to be an orphan?  (Sorry, but from my perspective of 75 years, even a teenager is a child.  I have trouble thinking of my 50s something children as anything but my children.)

 

Positively Beautiful

Wendy Mills

Erin Bailey’s father dies in a plane crash when she is six, leaving her afraid of the dark.  Now, ten years later, her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer. What’s a teenager to do when she sees her future as an orphan?  Especially since she tests positive for the BRCA gene mutation?  To make her more alone, she and her best friend aren’t as tight anymore because her friend has her first serious boyfriend. Erin meets a young woman, Ashley, in an online BRCA chat group who gives Erin courage and hope, and she decides to learn to fly.  Of course she doesn’t want to upset her mother, so she keeps lots of secrets.  Then she really messes up when she “borrows” her instructor’s plane to fly from Georgia to Florida to go visit Ashley, who has secrets.  Things get messier, as any good book should, before they get better, but even though her mother does die just before Erin’s graduation from high school, she has taught her daughter how to understand this mutant gene and lots more about life.  The book is nicely written and gives a great deal of information about dealing with breast cancer, including encouraging girls when to get tested and whom to confide in. The love story woven into the narrative isn’t too shabby either. There’s plenty of food for classroom discussion in the book, including why the BRCA gene mutation should be of concern to men.

BIBLIO: 2015, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Plc, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-61963-341-4

ISBN: 978-1-61963-342-1

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The thing that ties these books together is the comfort they bring by assuring us that there is hope after all is said and done.  Enjoy.  Sarah

Being Comfortable in Your Own Skin

If you’ve never gone through a period of life feeling ashamed, consider yourself blessed. Most people lack self confidence at some point in their lives. Teens and younger children frequently feel that. It’s part of growing up. When I was in high school I didn’t think anybody could possibly like me, especially any boy. Boys did like me, but even when they showed or told me that, I didn’t believe them. I probably had a reputation of being an ice queen.

At 5’6” tall, 120 pounds, and with flame-red hair, I probably wasn’t all that bad to look at. But, still I didn’t think I measured up. So I can relate to all who feel unlovable and unworthy.

Fortunately, I did find at least some of my good qualities and did discover I wasn’t really stupid. Most people do find their paths in life, but most also don’t have an easy path.

Anyway, here are three books that deal with our struggles toward self respect. Hope you enjoy them.

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The first book is about being picked on or bullied because of some physical difference. Add to that an emotional sadness and you’ve got one insecure individual.

Camo Girl
Kekla Magoon
Ella is picked upon by the other kids because her skin is mottled—dark brown in some spots on her face and light brown in others. She’s ashamed of her looks, thinking she’s ugly. She had two friends up until this year—sixth grade. But Millie has been avoiding her except when they ride to and from school, so Ella is down to one friend who calls himself Zachariah, knight of his own realm. Everyone else makes fun of Z, but Ella—known to Z as The Lady Ellie-nor—is loyal to her friend. He helped her grieve when her father died by making up their fantasy world, which was good at the time. The problem is Zachariah slides ever further into the alternate world so he won’t have to deal with the reality of his father having deserted him, leaving his mom and him to camp out at the Wal-Mart where she works. He becomes even more the object of torture for the school bullies; the Lady Ellie-nor coming to his rescue. Z’s distress deepens when Bailey James starts at their school and seeks out Ella’s company. She thinks it’s because she’s the only other black kid in the school. But he invites her to join him as he hangs out with the popular crowd and protects her from the bullies. She finds herself pulled toward other people and begins to reconnect with her friend Millie. Z goes on a mission to find his estranged father and Bailey helps Ella find him. Bailey has secrets of his own, including having his own father in a psychiatric hospital to deal with his post-traumatic stress disorder. Z finally gets the help he desperately needs and Ella begins to move on from her father’s death. This is a very well written novel and an enjoyable read.
BIBLIO: 2011, Aladdin/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster Publishing, Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $15.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Middle Reader
ISBN: 978-1-4169-7804-6
ISBN: 978-1-4424-1722-9

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This second book is about having to move from one culture to another and acknowledging uncomfortable truths.

Flowers in the Sky
Lynn Joseph
Nina Perez is perfectly happy living in Samana, Dominican Republic, but her mother is always harping on her to move to New York City and live with her brother, Darrio. Mamí is sure Nina will have better schools to go to and many chances to marry a rich man, who will take care of Nina and Mamí. Mamí whines at Darrio to send them money, which he dutifully does. But when Nina goes to New York, she discovers how her brother is making his money. He sells stolen goods in exchange for a free apartment and a salary. Nina makes friends at her new high school, but she falls for an older boy, Luis Santana, with a street reputation of being a bad sort. Nina misses being able to have a flower garden, so Darrio buys her an orchid to grow on the fire escape and soon she is growing lots of orchids to sell in the neighborhood. She starts up a friendship with Luis, even though Darrio and Mamí disapprove and would prefer she date her smart school friend, Carlos. Eventually Darrio gets caught for selling stolen goods, but Luis protects Nina and tells her the story of how he got his reputation. He tells her he’s thinking of going to college. Nina also realizes how much pressure she and Mamí have put on Darrio to support them over the years and how hard it’s been on him. This is a nice story, well told. It could lead to classroom discussions on cultural differences and learning to listen to people to see who they really are.
BIBLIO: 2013, HarperTeen/Epic Reads/HarperCollins Publishers, Ages 13 +, $17.99
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-0-06-029794-7
ISBN: 978-0-06-223642-5

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The third book is  about moving, but also dealing with new philosophies.

White Crow
Marcus Sedgwick
Against her desire, Rebecca moves to Winterfold from London, because her Detective Inspector dad has to lie low until the hullabaloo about his involvement in the death of a teenage girl simmers down. Winterfold is hot and boring and falling into the sea little by little. But Rebecca does meet a strange and fascinating girl named Ferelith and they become friends. Together they explore the town as Ferelith lures Rebecca into discussions of life and death and whether Heaven and Hell actually exist. Juxtaposed in this story are excerpts from the diary of an eighteenth century priest who is wondering about the same issues with a strange French doctor. The girls start daring each other to do increasingly bizarre and dangerous things and end up with Rebecca being locked in a special room where Ferelith tries to coerce her friend into admitting the reality of good and evil or God and the Devil or an afterlife. The two finally explore a hidden room/cave at the bottom of the French doctor’s house and find bones of the seven people the doctor and priest had murdered. As the girls are in room, the back of the house falls into the sea. Ferelith jumps into the sea and drowns, leaving a terrified Rebecca alone in the cave. Strange story with dark twists and turns which will keep the reader enthralled, even if it is a bit convoluted.
BIBLIO: 2011 (orig. 2010,) Roaring Brook Press/Holtzbrink Publishing Holdings Limited Partnership, Ages 14 +, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan
FORMAT: Young Adult
ISBN: 978-1-59643-594-0

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Enjoy the reviews and remember to be happy in your own skin.  At almost 75, I’ve pretty much achieved that.

Happy Summer

This may show up twice because I’m having trouble getting this blog to load on my site.  So just read it once, unless it thrills you so much you just have to read it again.

Anyway, I do hope everyone is having a happy summer and not getting flooded out, dried out, blown away, or burned out.  Time on the beach or in the pool or in the garden or on the golf course or paddling up the river is a good thing, so do try to get some of that in. Ride a horse in the woods and cool off your soul with the beauty of the woods and the serenity of being with a special companion.  Take the dog for a long walk and a swim in the river.  Wherever you are, be sure to have at least on book along for company. 

For this post I included books that take place in the summer or include summer time activities.   Hope you enjoy them.

I do not recommend this first book except as a cautionary tale of why you shouldn’t let your daughters spend time in ritzy resort towns without supervision.

Beach Lane: Summer Fun in the Hamptons!

Melissa de la Cruz

      If you like books about “Barbie Doll” spoiled brat, teenage girls, this is the book for you. Originally published as The Au Pairs, it is told from the points of view of three girls who take jobs as Au Pairs to a family of wealthy children whose parents really can’t be bothered with them. Eliza Thompson is used to summer in the Hamptons, but only as a member of the elite. Now, thanks to her father’s bank fraud disgrace, she has to take the bus from her new home in Buffalo to be the hired help. Her parents wouldn’t even buy her a plane ticket. Mara Waters is used to scrimping and thrilled to be out of Sturbridge for the summer, even if her boyfriend, Jim, was scalding mad that she was going. Jacarei (Jacqui) Velasco is from São Paolo and is quite used to picking up older men to help her on her journey. The girls get to the Hamptons and meet at their employers’ house. Although the girls do adjust their views of the world a bit during the summer, Eliza and Jacqui stay pretty much the same throughout the book—obsessed with pretty clothes and pretty boys. Mara learns to salivate over the same things. She and Eliza do try to take care of their four charges, but Jacqui conveniently comes up missing when any real work is to be done. This book will do nicely if you want to encourage your teen daughters to drink, smoke and have sex.

BIBLIO: 2013 (orig. 2004,) Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division/Simon & Schuster, Inc., Ages 14 +, $9/99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4424-7409-3

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0765-2

 

The second book has to do with scuba diving and treasure hunting, which many people do on vacation.

In Too Deep

Coert Voorhees

      Annie Fleet loves scuba diving, history and searching for treasure, which makes her feel even more out of place at the fancy private school she attends in Los Angeles, California. She’s surrounded by very wealthy kids, who, if not actors themselves, are the children of actors. Annie goes there because her father teaches there. She is going on a community service/treasure hunt to Mexico and the hottest guy in school, Josh Rebstock, is also going. The community service bit is hardly worth mentioning as far as Annie’s concerned and since she’s not much of a party girl, she’s bored with the after-work-hours drinking. Finally, they’re done with the community service part of their trip and on to the treasure hunt. Unfortunately, Annie is left for dead by her diving partner after she recovers a clue to the famed Golden Dragon, but makes it to the surface in tact. The rest of the story follows Annie and Josh trying to find the treasure and out wit the bad guys. It’s a rollicking good story with well drawn characters and lots of excitement. Teachers can use it as a jumping off point for history, social values or science.

BIBLIO: 2013, Hyperion/Disney Book Group, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-4231-4035-1

     

The last book is a good tale of learning to stand up for yourself and why it’s good not to lie.

The League

Thatcher Heldring

      Eighth-grader, Wyatt Parker, wishes he was macho enough to not be picked on. Plus, he wishes the girl next door, Evan Robinson, would get romantic feelings towards him instead of the hulky quarterback, who seems to be all muscles and self-assurance. Still Wyatt’s at the movies with Evan and the quarterback isn’t. But Wyatt decides he’ll go out for summer football, so he can toughen up. Only problem, his dad has signed him up for golf camp, so they can play golf more often. Wyatt doesn’t even really like golf, but he’s not used to going behind his parents’ backs. And his best friend, Francis, is psyched about going to the golf camp also and hanging out with Wyatt. Wyatt’s younger sister, Katie, is also very excited about going to the camp. Older brother Aaron, introduces Wyatt to the “League of Pain,” a no holds barred, tackle football league that plays in a secluded part of the community’s sports park. His father won’t let him out of the golf camp, so he lies about it, telling the camp he’s going to a space camp instead. Then he hurts Francis’ feelings by not even calling to say he won’t be going to the professional golf tournament they have tickets for. Wyatt does get more muscular and more respected by the end of the two-week long league. Along the way, he discovers that telling lies and being deceptive really aren’t cool. He also learns that he can stand up for himself without giving in or being a bully. This is an engaging story, with good characters and could be useful in classroom discussions about bullying and self-esteem. There could have been a bit more effort to explain why the parents don’t seem to want much to do with their older son.

BIBLIO: 2013. Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Random House, Inc., Ages 13 to 17, $15.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-385-74181-1

ISBN: 978-0-375-99025-0

ISBN: 978-0-375-98713-7

Whatever you do this summer have a good time and wear sunblock.  Talk to you soon.  Sarah