Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Book Review: George

 GEORGE, by Alex Gino, is the 2021 community read for Fox Cities Reads. And it is a great choice, as it is a story that can start a conversation. 

George is a 10-year-old child who looks to be a boy to everyone else, but she knows that she is a girl. And she is struggling to let other people know this. 

She wishes to try out for the part of Charlotte in the class play, CHARLOTTE'S WEB. She rehearsed the part and knows all the lines.  Her best friend Kelly hatches a plan that lets her be Charlotte on stage, while also showing everyone - her family, her classmates, her teachers, her community -  who she really is. 

If your copy of this book includes the Q&A section in the back with the author, it is a must read. It is very informative for knowing what to say and what not to say.  GEORGE is a realistic slice of life for a transgender child, and illustrates her journey and challenges.  

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Book Review: What Happens Next

"A total eclipse is a once in a lifetime thing." 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT by Claire Swindarski seemed like a natural for me to like. It is set in the fictional town of Moose Junction, Wisconsin, a small tourist town made more popular because it is the perfect viewing spot for an upcoming total solar eclipse. 

In the days leading up to the big event, the renowned scientist Dr. Leo Lacamoire comes to town and enlists the help of 12-year-old Abby. 

Oh, and central to the story is a small local library that Abby loves. This library has one employee, Harriet, and her budget only allows her to purchase 10 books a year. As a librarian and lifelong lover of these magical places, this book was a win for me. 

Secrets are revealed, sisters are bonded, and there are tons of delightful space metaphors. 

The author is a Wisconsin native and a true friend to the libraries who presented at the 2020 Fox Cities Book Festival. 

This book was a win for me. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Book Review: Words on Bathroom Walls

 Words on Bathroom Walls is a debut young adult fiction novel by Julia Walton. The book is structured as journal entries the main character, Adam, writes to his doctor. He is nonverbal in these sessions, but addresses whatever the doctor may have asked him, in detail, enough to make a whole novel. 

Before each entry is the dose of an experimental drug Adam is taking to control his schizophrenia. 

The model of storytelling is fresh, as is having a main character battling schizophrenia. Adam struggles with the label of "crazy" and interpreting reality because characters from his subconscious regularly populate his world. There is the ever-present Rebecca, who is always around. Then there are the mob guys who bust in and shoot the place up, except that only happens in Adam's head. His reaction though, is in front of everyone. 

His struggle is real, and heartbreaking, and comes to a satisfying crescendo that doesn't include a magical cure for mental illness. There is also a tie to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut as the shooter, unfortunately named Adam, also suffered a mental illness. The people around Adam are afraid of him. He lost his best friend after his diagnosis. He even seems to fear himself. 

This is not a happy read, but it is a hopeful one. And Adam is a likable teen with snark and determination to not react to the hallucinations that plague him. Some of my favorite scenes are when he suspects his new girlfriend is a figment of his imagination and waits until other people react to her, and when his doctor visits and he asks, "Are you real?" 

I haven't seen the movie adaption yet, but can't imagine it being better than this book. We get so deliciously deep in Adam's thoughts. It makes me wonder how that plays out on the screen. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Book Review: Echo Mountain

It's the Great Depression and times are hard, leading people to move to the mountain when they have nothing left. Then Ellie's dad has a tragic accident that leaves him in a coma and everyone in her family thinks it's her fault. 

ECHO MOUNTAIN, by Lauren Wolk, should be a sad, depressing tale, but the spirit of Ellie and what she finds on the mountain make this story more like an adventure. The reader roots for her as she finds and cares for "the hag" and tries her unusual remedies for waking her dad up. 

ECHO MOUNTAIN is beautiful, and sad, and a story like no other. I give it two thumbs up. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Book Review: Planet Earth is Blue

 PLANET EARTH IS BLUE is a debut middle grade novel by Nicole Panteleakos set in January 1986  the week prior to the Challenger disaster. As a fan of all things 80s and especially David Bowie, there was much to love in this story. Not the least of which was the main character, Nova, who loves space and her sister Bridget. Nova also has autism and does not speak much. She writes letters to her sister that teachers call "scribbles." At every school she attended, she is labeled as "does not speak, severely retarded," which makes Nova and her sister Bridget mad. Nova is looking forward to two things, seeing the Challenger launch the first teacher into space and having Bridget come back to watch it with her. 

Knowing how the Challenger launch went in 1986, I found myself dreading living through it again in this story. Spoiler alert: the ending of this book is very, very sad in more ways than one.

The author has been an instructor at a school for autistic children and volunteered at an after school center.  This experience may have contributed to the fabulous character development of the non neurotypical Nova. Her perspective is refreshing and makes the story one of the best middle grade novels I've read in 2020. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Book Review: I'm Not Dying with You Tonight

I'm Not Dying with You Tonight
by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal is about two high school girls who don't really know each other. One is black. One is white and new to the neighborhood. They get caught up in a riot that may make you think differently about riots and race and neighborhoods. 

This was a quick read, and although not too deep, it was energetic and brought the reader into the center of a riot. I could relate to both of the voices and thought they were represented well. 

While this wasn't a favorite Young Adult novel. It was quick. It was topical. It felt important. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Book Review: For Black Girls Like Me

Mariama J Lockington creates a sympathetic and relatable character in Makeda Kirkland in her middle grade novel For Black Girls Like Me

Keda is adopted into a white family she loves very much, but sometimes feels out of place. When her family moves from Maryland to New Mexico, leaving behind Keda's best friend, she finds it even harder to fit in.

What I loved about this book was Keda's voice and her straight talk about how even those with the best of intentions can say things that make their loved ones feel bad.  In a world where race relations are a hot topic, this is an excellent book for understanding. I felt for Keda when the mean girls said atrocious things to her, and maddened when it wasn't handled as it should have been. 

The story takes a serious turn about another subject entirely that seems unnecessary.  Keda's story was enough to keep me interested.