Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: You're Welcome, Universe

Books with greetings to the universe are getting attention from the folks at the American Library Association. "You're Welcome, Universe," by Whitney Gardner is the 2018 Schneider Family Book Award winner in the teen category. The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.

In "You're Welcome, Universe," Julia is attending a new high school after being kicked out of her previous school for the deaf.  She is dealing with a fall out with her best friend, Jordyn, who is now dating Donovan, the boy Julia likes. Worse yet, she has to work with both of them at McDonald's, and see Donovan whisper in Jordyn's ear, now able to hear after getting a cochlear implant.

Julia is Deaf, and proud of it. She is also a graphic artist who loves the thrill of bombing a space. Her story brings color to the world of graffiti art and exposes realities of being Deaf among the hearing.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Book Review: Wishtree

Author Katherine Applegate gives voice to things that otherwise wouldn't. Her Newbery award winning "The One and Only Ivan" was a first person story from the perspective of a doomed silverback gorilla. In "Wishtree," she takes on an even more surprising point of view, that of a tree.


Red is a centuries old Red Oak that is more chatty than most trees. When two children living in the houses under its boughs are in trouble, he takes a risk and tells them a story to bring them together. It is against the rules, but that is the least of Red's worries. The owner of the houses is determined to cut down the old oak tree to keep its from further invading the plumbing and flooding the yards.

I liked the tree as a character, and the ensemble cast were terrific, from the skunks who name themselves after pleasant smells, the opossums who name themselves after things that scare them, to the crows that name themselves frequently after sounds they like. A very serious story is encapsulated within the romping substories that live within a centuries old tree.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Book Review: Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess


"Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess" by Shari Green captures the magic and frustration of childhood in a beautiful, multilayered story.  Macy has a fight with her best friend, a difficult project at school, and the threat of a for sale sign in front of her house. She is also deaf, but that isn't one of her problems, it's just a part of who she is.


I've often heard it said that when you take away one of the five senses, the others become more vibrant. Nearly every sense is engaged. Iris, the lady next door, wears orange and bakes cookies that contain messages. She and Macy communicate with notes in the shape of things they love. The language unfolds in verse, which gives it rhythm. 

The story isn't surprising, but it is a delightful journey. Macy and Iris develop a friendship that both of them need. Macy packs Iris's books and learns her stories, and finds a way to tell her own. The parallel of them, young and old, each facing a move they don't want, is like a warm embrace.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Review: Hello, Universe


"Hello Universe," by Erin Entrada Kelly won the 2018 John Newbery Medal for its outstanding contribution to children's literature.

It's the story of four diverse middle school students, each with a plan, and how their stories converge in the woods.

"There are no coincidences," is repeated, giving the reader the idea that their paths crossed for another reason.

The story is infused with a mystical feel that is not entirely due to Kaori's psychic
beliefs or the folktales that come alive in Virgil's imagination.

Told in shifting points of view, it can be difficult to find your groove at first, but the journey is worth it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Book Review: Long Way Down


"Long Way Down" by Jason Reynolds is written in verse and takes place almost entirely in an elevator. Yet, as a reader, I kept turning the pages, hungry to find out what happens next.This is no ordinary elevator ride. Thoughtful, provocative, and touching, this is a book that sticks with you long after you close it.

Jason Reynolds must be getting a lot of fan mail 
demanding to know what Will did when he got off that elevator. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Book Club Discussion Questions - "Windfall" by Jennifer E. Smith

I started a teen book club at the library. "Windfall" by Jennifer E. Smith was our first book choice, and the teens gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars. This story is about luck, and love, and what could happen if your best friend won the lottery.

When preparing for the book club, I was not able to find discussion questions online. So I wrote up my own, and now I am sharing it for others.

"Windfall" by Jennifer E. Smith Discussion Questions

1. Can you relate to how Teddy reacted when he won the lottery?

2. What would you do if you won the lottery?

3. Did you understand why Alice didn't want to take any money from Teddy? Would you feel the same?

4. How did Alice's background contribute to her decision?

5. How did Teddy's background contribute to how he reacted to winning the lottery?

6. Why was Alice afraid to tell Teddy how she feels?

7. Were there signs that Teddy felt the same way?

8. What would you do if you were in love with your best friend?

9. What were some of the good things that happened to Teddy after winning?

10. What other good things can you imagine happening after winning?

11. What were some of the bad things that happened to Teddy?

12. Can you think of some other bad things that could happen?

13. Do you think the money changed Teddy? How?

14. What about Alice? Did she change? Was it because of the money or something else?

15. What about Leo? What was his role in the story?

16. Can you think of some other ways this story could have ended? What would have happened if Alice took the money? What if Teddy didn't have romantic feelings for her? What if Teddy's ticket didn't win?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Book Review: The Inquisitor's Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

Author Adam  Gidwitz brings the Middle Ages to readers in The Inquisitor's Tale Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog.  This children's adventure story was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2017 and the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

It is told in a storyteller fashion by several observers of these magical children. William is a young monk with supernatural strength. Jacob is a Jewish boy who can heal all wounds. Jeanne is a peasant girl who has visions of the future, and is accompanied by her resurrected dog, Gwenforte. The children face perils that include a dragon with deadly farts, a lying monk and finally, an army of knights.

The illustrations by Hatem Aly accompany the story, adding to its fireside charm.

It is worthy to note the inspiration for the story, as many of the characters (including the holy dog) are based on real characters, events and legends from the Middle Ages. Be sure to stick around to read the Author's note.