Thursday, September 24, 2015

Almost Home by Joan Bauer
(2015-16 Iowa Children's Choice nominee)

Book description from twelve-year-old Sugar's grandfather dies and her gambling father takes off yet again, Sugar and her mother lose their home in Missouri. They head to Chicago for a fresh start, only to discover that fresh starts aren't so easy to come by for the homeless. Nevertheless, Sugar's mother has taught her to be grateful no matter what, so Sugar does her best. With the help of a rescue dog, Shush; a foster family; a supportive teacher; a love of poetry; and her own grace and good humor, Sugar comes to understand that while she can't control the hand life deals her, she can control how she responds.

My 25 cents...I will admit it was a little sad in the beginning, but it does have a happy ending!  Sugar is a strong young lady that has to go through many things most adults would have a hard time dealing with. 
I think she handles her challenges with courage and help from others (a message that it's OKAY to ask for help!!) and ends on a note of hope! 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord
(2015-16 Iowa Children's Choice Nominee)

Book description from Lucy's family moves to an old house on a lake, Lucy tries to see her new home through her camera's lens, as her father has taught her -- he's a famous photographer, away on a shoot. Will her photos ever meet his high standards? When she discovers that he's judging a photo contest, Lucy decides to enter anonymously. She wants to find out if her eye for photography is really special -- or only good enough.
As she seeks out subjects for her photos, Lucy gets to know Nate, the boy next door. But slowly the camera reveals what Nate doesn't want to see: his grandmother's memory is slipping away, and with it much of what he cherishes about his summers on the lake. This summer, Nate will learn about the power of art to show truth. And Lucy will learn how beauty can change lives . . . including her own.

My 25 cents...This is a quaint story about friendship.  The beginning of the story introduces us to Lucy who has just moved (again!) to a house on a lake.  Her father travels quite often so she misses him and tries connect to him by photography, her hobby--his business.  As Lucy meets a family at the lake, she has to learn the delicate balance of following her passion for taking pictures and being a good friend.  I thought the book was a little boring in the middle, but if you stick with it, there is a great lesson in the end. 
Duke by Kirby Larson
(2015-16 Iowa Children's Choice Nominee)

Book Description from World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to "loan" their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again? Will life ever be the same?

My 25 cents...One of my favorite books I have read this summer.  Who doesn't love a great DOG story, but especially his one (spoiler alert!!) where the dog DOESN'T DIE!!!  This is another historical fiction book that taught me about the amazing Dogs for Defense organization I knew nothing about.  You can feel the love and dedication that Hobie has for Duke as he struggles to loan Duke to the military.  A great book to read before seeing the now popular movie "MAX" that also is about Dogs for Defense!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Desperate Adventures of Zeno & Alya by Jane Kelley
(2015-16 Iowa Children's Choice Nominee)

Book description from orphaned African grey parrot who can speak 127 words. A girl so sick she has forgotten what it means to try. Fate--and a banana nut muffin--bring them together. Will their shared encounter help them journey through storms inside and out? Will they lose their way, or will they find what really matters?

My 25 cents...This book was a surprise for me, I really enjoyed it! I did not expect too, as I thought it was going to be "too much" fantasy for my liking.  The characters in this story (parrot and girl) both face their own struggles which are huge in their eyes.  Readers will find themselves cheering to get the two together to team up and help one another!  Pleasantly surprised by this story!! I think this book would be a great read-aloud for a class or even a family that shares books aloud for different ages.  
Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
(2015-16 Iowa Teen Nominee)

Book description from Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.
Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing, girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable surrogate family is a joy and a revelation to read.

My 25 cents...This was a delicate story about a girl who is dealt a difficult hand.  Not because she is "extraordinarily odd" (we are all different!) but when her adoptive parents are killed in an accident, Willow must carry on and see that her world is not over like that of her parents.  Readers will find themselves cheering Willow on as she discovers new family and support in her world.  This is a book that older elementary/middle schoolers will most likely enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine

Book description from twelve-year-old Marlee starts middle school in 1958 Little Rock, it feels like her whole world is falling apart. Until she meets Liz, the new girl at school. Liz is everything Marlee wishes she could be: she's brave, brash and always knows the right thing to say. But when Liz leaves school without even a good-bye, the rumor is that Liz was caught passing for white. Marlee decides that doesn't matter. She just wants her friend back. And to stay friends, Marlee and Liz are even willing to take on segregation and the dangers their friendship could bring to both their families.

My 25 cents....This was an EXCELLENT story!  Sadly, it is based on historical facts.  Marlee learns that a true friend is a true friend, no matter what!  (I actually put off finishing the book because I didn't want it to END!) Read it--it could make you look around and decide who your real friends are!!

Monday, May 4, 2015

El Deafo by Cece Bell  

Book description from to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.

My 25 cents...This is a graphic novel (some call them comics). It is a quick read story and one about making the right choices and finding friends that like you for who you are. I thought it was okay. It was a little weird for me to know it was a true story but the author used rabbits as characters?! (Remember, just my opinion!)