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Sunday, February 26, 2012

13 Gifts

Wendy Mass’s most recent novel, 13 Gifts, brings back the mysterious Angelina D’Angelo from 11 Birthdays and Finally. Characters from those two awesome books – Amanda, Leo, Rory, David, Jake, and Emily are also in this story. Tara Brennan has always been pushed to make friends by her mother, who spends most of her time working on research. She makes a huge mistake when trying to fit in and gets caught stealing her principal’s goat. As punishment, her parents send her to the place they grew up – Willow Falls – while they continue her mom’s research in Madagascar. Tara has to stay with her mom’s sister, Uncle, and her young cousin, Emily. On the train ride there, she loses her mom’s ipod , her phone, and all of her money. Once there, she immediately makes friends with the kids her age. She makes another huge mistake when she tries to sell her uncle’s rare comic to a strange woman (Angelina) with a duck-shaped birthmark on her face. Angelina calls her out and forces her to strike a deal – Angelina won’t tell if Tara can collect 13 unusual items – she will even pay her the $200 she lost on her train ride. Will Tara be able to fulfill her end of the bargain? Will Amanda, Leo, or Rory shed light on the mystifying Angelina? What secrets does Willow Falls hold about Tara’s parents’ past? Read 13 Gifts to find out. You won’t be disappointed! Watch Scholastic's book trailer below.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Escape under the Forever Sky

Escape under the Forever Sky by Eve Yohalem keeps you reading to find out what will happen next. Thirteen-year-old Lucy is tired of being sheltered by her overprotective mom who is the American ambassador in Ethiopia. She has been in Ethiopia for six months and hasn’t had the opportunity to “see” the country. Lucy, leaving the highly protected American compound where she lives, rebels and she and her Ethiopian friend, Tana, head to a local restaurant. Once unprotected, the girls are deceived and Lucy finds herself held hostage. Her only means of escape is into the wild plains of Africa where lions and hyenas await. I love reading books that teach me about other places and cultures. When I finished this book, I felt like I had been on a journey myself. I was surprised to find out that this story was inspired by real events. Read this exciting novel to find out if Lucy can survive her captors and the harsh African landscape.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

My Name is Not Easy

My Name is Not Easy by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a National Book Award Finalist. Edwardson draws on her strong knowledge of Alaska's history and environment. This story told through multiple narrators –Luke, Chickie, Sonny, Donna, and Amiq –children of various races (White, Indian, and Eskimo) sent a long way from their villages to Sacred Heart Catholic boarding school. All of the preteens’ families have been assured their children will receive a good education. No one can imagine at what cost. Luke begins the story by saying that he had to use the name, Luke, because his “name is not easy”. The students must give up their home language and speak only English. The integration of the Indians and the Eskimos is difficult at first as the students separate into packs. The story follows them from 1960 – 1964. Facing hardships brings the teens together and they soon find that School has become home for some of them. I appreciate that Edwardson used real-life situations that many Indian and Eskimo children had to face during that time in order to get an education. Some readers may have a difficult time at first keeping up with the characters as their stories are shared, but it is worth the effort. Another good book by Edwardson is Blessing’s Bead.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The View from Saturday

As a middle school librarian, I take pride in the number of books I have read. Having just finished The View from Sunday, I will no longer have to hear the incredulous exclamation from others, “You haven’t read E.L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday?”. Now I see why others are so surprised that this clever novel was missing from my collection of have-read books. What appeals to me the most about Konigsburg’s books is the way she develops her characters…they stay with you long after the book has ended. The View from Saturday begins with Mrs. Olinski, the quiz bowl sponsor and sixth-grade teacher, reflecting on how she chose her quiz bowl team members. Injured in an accident, Mrs. Olinski is a paraplegic who teaches her class from her wheelchair. Her quiz bowl team has made it to the championship round, surprisingly beating out older middle school teams. The complex story then contains four reflective short stories that share each team member’s background; separated by quiz bowl activity and Mrs. Olinski’s own story. I love how Konigsburg slowly reveals her characters in this story. Quiz bowl members – Noah, Nadia, Ethan, and Julian – are linked in more ways than one despite having different personalities. Another treat is how each member is able to answer a quiz bowl question and the reader understands how he or she knows the answer. The story gives us affirmation that goodness triumphs and that friends give us what we need. Other books by this Newbery Medal winning author include From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Silent to the Bone, The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place, and The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World.