Monday, July 26, 2010

Middle School Pick

Northward to the Moon

by Polly Horvath

Random House, 2010

244 pages

When her step-father Ned loses his job teaching high school French--the principal found out after a whole year that Ned can't speak French!--Jane's family is uprooted from the wilds of Saskatchewan. They leave the frozen tundra and cruel winters behind and travel the back roads and less traveled paths of Canada to find an old Carrier (Native American) woman named Mary who was like a second mother to Ned.

Mary gives Ned a big bag of money that was left behind by Ned's brother. No one knows where the money came from--everyone suspects it's stolen or from ill-gotten gains. Ned takes the money and his family and goes on a cross continent tour to find his brother and deliver the money. Searching in Las Vegas, Ned doesn't find his brother, but does end up with a lead to his estranged mother who owns a horse ranch in Elko, Nevada.

Stolen money, wild horses, a dark horse trainer, a step-father with a strange past, a mother with secrets, and an eccentric new family with crazy relatives, Jane learns about family and her own human need to nurture.
Although the cover art does not seem engaging enough for most readers this age--visual appeal is almost everything to middle school readers, the novel is a solid read. Perhaps with different cover art, this book would FLY off the shelves.

Recommended for middle school readers.

FTC Disclaimer: I read this copy provided by a publisher. This in no way influenced my review. I did not receive monetary compensation for this review.

The Compound, by SA Bodeen

The Compound, by SA Bodeen

book trailer by Pamela Thompson

YA Pick

Outside Beauty

by Cynthia Kadohata

Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008.

265 pages

Shelby and her sisters lead fascinating lives. Lives full of adventure and danger. Their mother Helen uses her beauty and feminine wiles to attract and trap men. Sometimes men get jealous, and when they do,Helen is forced to flee in the night with her girls. The girls idolize their beautiful mother--she is perfect, she is fun, she is an enigma. As Helen ages, her beauty begins to fade and she begins to unravel. Shelby's family history is a bit muddled--each sister has a different father--fathers who are never around. The girls know very little of their fathers until Helen has an accident and the girls are separated and taken away by each of the fathers.

Shelby is lonely and cannot communicate with each sister. They make a plan to be together forever. Can they ever be together? Will their mother be okay?

The author won the Newbery Medal for her earlier novel Kira-Kira.

Recommended grades 6-10.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Historical Fiction Pick-Regional-Appalachia

To Come and Go Like Magic

byKatie Pickard Fawcett

Alfred A. Knopf, 2010.

261 pages

In this stirring series of vignettes, readers meet Chili Sue Mahoney, a twelve-year old girl from the hills of Kentucky. Set in the 1970s, much of the story revolves around Chili's family, the poor down the hill, and the rich mine owners. There is some discussion of race relations and VISTAS who come to help the poor and oppressed in the hills. Chili's world is dominated by rather provocative and strong adults: her father who hates the VISTAS and thinks the poor are poor because they are lazy and unlucky, Chili's strange uncle who comes to live with them, her pregnant older sister who is a bit of a mystery and an eccentric older neighbor who comes to substitute teach at her school.

It is this lady, Miss Matlock, who teaches Chili of a wonderful world outside of Mercy Hill, Kentucky. A world full of rain forests and monkeys and colorful butterflies that "come and go like magic." Chili realizes her ticket out of Appalachia is an education.

The author, Katie Pickard Fawcett. writes with authority and love--originally from Appalachia, she became a social worker in the community.

Easy to read, wonderful little slices of a time gone by, To Come and Go Like Magic is the perfect read for anyone who dreams of a bigger world out there full of adventure and romance.

Recommended for collections--grades 6-8.

Monday, July 5, 2010

YA Girls Pick

The Teashop Girls
by Laura Schaefer
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, 2008.
250 pages

This debut novel is quaint and charming and reminds readers of days gone by when polite people sat down for tea and conversation. In a world before text messages, IM, and multi-tasking, tea calmed the nerves, soothed the soul, and fed the mind.

Annie Green has always loved tea. That's because of her eccentric and charismatic grandmother Louisa who runs the off-kilter tea shop where tea is still brewed one pot at a time from aromatic tea leaves imported from far-away and exotic foreign places NOT tea from a mass marketed tea bag! Annie and her life-long friends Zoe and Genna have always called themselves the Teashop Girls. The three of them are inseparable and vow to stick together and honor the tradition of their weekly tea at Louisa's shop, The Steeping Leaf. Eighth grade changes all of this. Genna and Zoe have other interests, and soon Annie takes a part-time job at the tea shop and realizes her grandmother is in serious debt and may lose the beloved shop.

The Teashop Girls come together to develop a business plan for Louisa. A cute boy named Jonathan takes a job as a barrista. Neighborhood trouble-maker Zach gives Annie a hard time and seems to be everywhere she goes. Can Annie save the shop? Will she catch Jonathan's eye and possibly score a date? Can she ever get rid of pesky Zach?

Recommended for YA and younger, grades 5-8. Girls will love Annie and the Steeping Leaf. Annie includes recipes for Cucumber Sandwiches, party ideas, and even beauty remedies using, you guessed it, tea!

FTC Disclaimer: This book was sent to me by the publisher. I did not receive monetary compensation for the review, and in no way was this review influenced by getting the book from the publisher.