Friday, February 2, 2018

The Liberation of Gabriel King by K.L. Going

Book description from King was a born chicken. He’s afraid of spiders, corpses, loose cows, and just about everything related to the fifth grade. Gabe’s best friend, Frita Wilson, thinks Gabe needs some liberating from his fears. Frita knows something about being brave— she’s the only black kid in school in a town with an active Ku Klux Klan. Together Gabe and Frita are going to spend the summer of 1976 facing down the fears on Gabe’s list. But it turns out that Frita has her own list, and while she’s helping Gabe confront his fears, she’s avoiding the thing that scares her the most.

My 25 cents...This is a quick read, not a very long story at all.  Based in the 1970s, this story will be an eye opener for those that don't know how African Americans were treated by some people just because of the color of their skin.  Gabe learns how to overcome some of his fears with the help of his friend Frita,
even though she is <<gulp>> a girl!!  

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

If You're Reading This by Trent Reedy
(Iowa Teen nominee 2017-2018)

Book description from was seven when his father was killed in mysterious circumstances in Afghanistan. Eight years later, the family still hasn't recovered: Mike's mom is overworked and overprotective; his younger sister Mary feels no connection to the father she barely remembers; and in his quest to be "the man of the family," Mike knows he's missing out on everyday high school life.

Then, out of the blue, Mike receives a letter from his father -- the first of a series Dad wrote in Afghanistan, just in case he didn't come home, meant to share some wisdom with his son on the eve of Mike's 16th birthday. As the letters come in, Mike revels in spending time with his dad again, and takes his encouragement to try new things -- to go out for the football team, and ask out the beautiful Isma. But who's been keeping the letters all these years? And how did Dad actually die? As the answers to these mysteries are revealed, Mike and his family find a way to heal and move forward at last.

My 25 cents...Like football?  You must read this book!!  The reader can't help but feel sorry for Mike since he lost his father in the military when he was just seven years old but on the other hand (can you even imagine?) -is he being kind of a jerk to him family? When Mike starts getting letters from his father, his eyes get opened up to trying new things and also figuring out where these letters are coming from.  One of the cool things about this book too, is the setting is in Iowa, so there is a lot of mention of the Hawkeyes, life in Iowa, etc.  I am not a football person, (so those parts I skimmed over) but I imagine if a person is into football that this might be the perfect mix of sports talk, mystery and celebration.  
Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson
(Iowa Teen nominee 2017-2018)

Book description from has never seen the Mark of the Dragonfly until she finds the girl amid the wreckage of a caravan in the Meteor Fields.
    The girl doesn’t remember a thing about her life, but the intricate tattoo on her arm is proof that she’s from the Dragonfly Territories and that she’s protected by the king. Which means a reward for Piper if she can get the girl home.
    The one sure way to the Territories is the 401, a great old beauty of a train. But a ticket costs more coin than Piper could make in a year. And stowing away is a difficult prospect—everyone knows that getting past the peculiar green-eyed boy who stands guard is nearly impossible.
    Life for Piper just turned dangerous. A little bit magical. And very exciting, if she can manage to survive the journey.

My 25 cents...So I LISTENED to this book as an audio book, I didn't physically read the story. (I think that made this book a little difficult for me to read, as I wished I could flip back in the book to re-read about some of the characters.) I am not a big fan of fantasy/sci-fi books and that is what I would consider this book to be. That being said, I actually liked the book more than I thought I would. I found Piper to be a very likeable, helpful main character that was sadly left alone (without a mother or father) to survive on her own. When she finds a little girl that seems not only lost and alone, but very confused-Piper takes it upon herself to get the girl to safety.  There is some mystery and definitely suspense in this book. If you are a reader of fantasy like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson I think this is a title you will really enjoy.      

Monday, October 23, 2017

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
(Iowa Children's Choice nominee 2017-18)

Book description from the rise of the Berlin Wall, twelve-year-old Gerta finds her family suddenly divided. She, her mother, and her brother Fritz live on the eastern side, controlled by the Soviets. Her father and middle brother, who had gone west in search of work, cannot return home. Gerta knows it is dangerous to watch the wall, to think forbidden thoughts of freedom, yet she can't help herself. She sees the East German soldiers with their guns trained on their own citizens; she, her family, her neighbors and friends are prisoners in their own city.

But one day, while on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform on the western side, pantomiming a peculiar dance. Then, when she receives a mysterious drawing, Gerta puts two and two together and concludes that her father wants Gerta and Fritz to tunnel beneath the wall, out of East Berlin. However, if they are caught, the consequences will be deadly. No one can be trusted. Will Gerta and her family find their way to freedom?

My 25 cents...Can you imagine if your family was split because of a wall?   Greta was incredibly brave and strong-willed.  The only part I had a hard time comprehending was Greta being able to find "the" building her father wanted her to go (to escape) just by a drawing she received.  It sounded like a very simple drawing and for her to find it seems a tad bit unbelieveable.  What I found very real was the relationship between Greta and her broth Fritz, as it wasn't all rainbows and sunshine--the fought and got frustrated with each other too. This story was very suspenseful and even a little bit sad to think of the hardship this wall (really happened!) put on families back in that time in history. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stealing Air by Trent Reedy
Book description from his dad announced they were moving to Iowa, Brian looked forward to making some new friends. But on his first day there he makes an enemy instead -- Frankie Heller, the meanest kid in town. Brian needs to hang out with someone cool to get back on track. . . .

Alex has always been the coolest guy around, and good with money, just like his dad. But now the family is struggling, and he needs to make some cash to keep up appearances. Then an opportunity falls in his lap . . . .

Max is a scientific genius, but his parents are always busy with their own work. Building an actual plane should get their attention -- if only he wasn't scared of heights . . .

The answer to all three boys' problems starts with Max's secret flyer. But Frankie and the laws of popularity and physics stand in their way. Can they work together in time to get their plan AND their plane off the ground?

My 25 cents...The story was fun to read because it took place in Iowa.  Brian and his family moved to Riverside, Iowa.  So they mention things like Iowa City and other places in Iowa that make it interesting to read.  There is a lot of skateboarding terminology and for me that was a little long and boring to read about.  The friendship amongst the boys and struggles Brian faces with some other boys is what made me stick with the book, to see how they came out in the end.  I would call this book an "okay story", but if you are really into skateboarding-you would probably enjoy it more!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper 
Book description for is not like most people. She cannot walk or talk, but she has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She is smarter than most of the adults who try to diagnose her and smarter than her classmates in her integrated classroom - the very same classmates who dismiss her as mentally challenged because she cannot tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by cerebral palsy. And she's determined to let everyone know it...somehow....(Readers) will come to know a brilliant mind and a brave spirit who will change forever how they look at anyone with a disability.
My 25 cents...This is another book (see Wonder in my blog!) that I think ALL PEOPLE should read.  It is not a very "thick" book either, if you are wanting something "short". If you have ever seen someone that is in a wheelchair that also is not able to communicate--and wondered how much they "get"--this book just may blow your mind.    

Friday, September 15, 2017

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka
(Iowa Teen Award 2017-2018 nominee)
Book description from true story of an all-American girl and a boy from an impoverished city in Zimbabwe and the letter that changed both of their lives forever.

It started as an assignment. Everyone in Caitlin's class wrote to an unknown student somewhere in a distant place. All the other kids picked countries like France or Germany, but when Caitlin saw Zimbabwe written on the board, it sounded like the most exotic place she had ever heard of - so she chose it.
Martin was lucky even to receive a pen-pal letter. There were only 10 letters and 40 kids in his class. But he was the top student, so he got the first one.
That letter was the beginning of a correspondence that spanned six years and changed two lives.
My 25 cents...I really enjoyed this book.  (Do NOT let the size of it discourage you. It looks long, but is reads fast!)  It is the story of a lifelong, life-changing friendship that started with a simple random pen-pal letter!  The reader learns so much about the life in Africa that is not familiar to everyone.  It wasn't always a smooth road for these two friends on the opposite sides of the earth either.  An added bonus is the real photos that the author included so we could see these two friends in all their friendship AND differences!  It definitely made me thankful for what we have here in the US and more grateful for what we often take for granted:  proper shoes that fit, clean drinking water at the turn of a knob, safe schools, etc.