Tag: friendship

Soar by Joan Bauer

Soar by Joan Bauer

Soar by Joan Bauer (InfoSoup)

Jeremiah loves baseball but due to his heart transplant, he isn’t allowed to run or play ball. When his father is asked to work in a baseball-crazed town for a couple of months, Jeremiah insists on going along rather than being left behind with his aunt. But all is not happy in Hillcrest as a scandal breaks out soon after Jeremiah and his father move to town. Jeremiah though knows that baseball can heal too, so he sets out to follow his dream of being a coach by trying to create a new middle school team. It’s up to one boy with lots of spirit to try to inspire an entire town to care again.

This is Bauer at her best. Her books are always readable and easily related to. Here that very accessible text allows Jeremiah to shine as a character. His spirit battles his health limitations, his ability to keep on trying and to stay positive is inspiring and refreshing to see. This is a book about living life filled with the sport that you adore, whether your body allows you to actually play or not. It’s also about not letting limitations define your life but your own will power and spirit to do that.

It’s also great to see a book about moving where an unusual kid manages to make friends quickly and be accepted by most others. Happily, Jeremiah is not shy or withdrawn, but his gregarious nature, coach quotes and willingness to talk directly to adults as equals makes him quite unique. Bauer writes with such understanding of her protagonist that the entire book gels around his personality and approach to life.

A strong elementary school read, this book will be loved by fans of baseball and those looking for just a great book to read or share. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from library copy.

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt

Friday Barnes Girl Detective by RA Spratt

Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt, illustrated by Phil Gosier (InfoSoup)

Friday has long known the power of being invisible to everyone else. Her parents rarely pay any attention to her and she got herself moved from kindergarten to first grade without anyone noticing. When she solves a bank robbery, the award money lets her pay tuition to Highcrest Academy, a very exclusive private school. Friday hopes to continue to be invisible, but her brown sweaters and jeans don’t serve as camouflage among the trendy and expensive clothes. Anyway, Friday soon discovers that what Highcrest Academy needs is a detective since there is crime everywhere! As Friday steps into that role, she tries to solve a series of cases from missing homework to who exactly is the yeti in the swamp. This funny and clever book is the first in a new series that is sure to delight.

Friday is a great female protagonist. She is highly intelligent and never apologizes for it. She is also socially awkward but manages to find a great friend at school, another girl who is her perfect foil, a daydreamer who can read emotions well. Friday has no interest in being popular, another breath of fresh air. The unlikely pair make a great team in solving mysteries and are joined by others including a doltish brother who does what he is told very well and a principal who also needs Friday’s help.

The entire book is smart and humorous. Friday solves crimes in ways that make sense and the crimes themselves are small enough to fit into a middle school campus but large enough to be fascinating. While there is some bullying, many of the boarding school tropes of mean girls are minimized in favor of the mysteries themselves. The closed-in setting of the boarding school is used to great effect as the suspects must often be right in the vicinity.

A dazzling new series, this book has tons of appeal for mystery fans and features a unique new protagonist to love. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Roaring Brook Press and Edelweiss.

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

The Turn of the Tide by Rosanne Parry

When an earthquake hits Japan, Kai tries to help his elderly grandparents escape the tsunami waves, but he is unable to get them to move fast enough. After the immediate crisis, Kai is moved from his home in Japan to the safety of Oregon to live with his cousins. His parents stayed behind in Japan to work on the nuclear power plant that was damaged in the storm. Jet is the cousin that Kai moves in with. She dreams of being the pilot of a boat on the Columbia Bar. One day she misses checking the tide though and puts her little brother in serious danger on the water. These two cousins, each wrestling with the results of their actions and the tug of their dreams, have to find a way to forgive themselves and move forward.

Parry, author of Heart of a Shepherd, has once again captured the courage of children on the page. The two protagonists are unique voices in children’s literature. Kai from Japan looks at everything in America as different and foreign. He struggles with his own role in his grandparent’s death and feels a loss of honor for leaving Japan and escaping to safety himself rather than helping rebuild. Jet is a courageous girl who struggles to make and keep friends. She is passionate about sailing and boats but also about her family. Jet doesn’t warm to people easily, and the two cousins face interpersonal issues between them that are organic and realistic.

The setting too is beautifully rendered. The Oregon coast and the Columbia River Bar add real drama and danger to the story. The ever-present weather and tides, the concerns with sailing and family honor, and the dreams of Jet herself meld together into a mix of adventure and destiny. The book has facts at the end about the Columbia River Bar Pilots and about Captain Deborah Dempsey who appears as a character in the book, the only female Columbia River Bar pilot.

Realistic and dangerous adventure in a beautiful and unique part of the United States, this book speaks to working to forgive yourself and overcoming adversity by doing the right thing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Random House Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Released January 26, 2016.

From the outside, Vicky’s life looks perfect. Her father is wealthy, her step mother loves to take her shopping, and her sister is a high achiever. But Vicky can’t get over the loss of her beloved mother, whom she cared for during her last months. So Vicky turns to the only solution she can see and tries to commit suicide. When she wakes up in a mental disorders ward, she starts the process of putting her life back together. She meets three other teens who have lived very different lives from her and yet they all are part of each others recovery. Slowly Vicky starts to see that she suffers from depression and what it will mean to return to her life after her time in the hospital.

Stork has once again created a book for teens that will speak directly to them. He takes on mental illness here in a forthright way, showing the way that depression can creep up on a person and change the way they perceive things. He also shows how a person’s life can be glamorous and yet stifling and not fulfilling. It is a book that speaks to the importance of support from a therapist, of medication and of creating a group of people who understand you in your life. It’s a brilliant novel that is complex and deep with plenty to explore and feel.

Vicky could have been a very different character in a lesser writer’s hands. With Stork’s skill, he hints at a superficial look at Vicky’s wealthy life and then goes much more deeply into why she is experiencing life in the way she is. She is a poetic soul caught in a capitalistic family, driven by high achievement but in ways that she cannot relate to. With the loss of her mother, her father changed, her sister distanced herself, and Vicky had no one to turn to for support any more.

Organic and real, this novel has a diverse heroine and cast of characters that will appeal to a wide range of readers and deals with a serious subject in an uplifting way. Appropriate for ages 13-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

 

Review: Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock

Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock

Ruby Lee and Me by Shannon Hitchcock

Sarah knows that she is responsible for her little sister being hit by a car. Their entire summer has changed now with Robin in the hospital and her prognosis unclear. Sarah has moved to live with her grandparents on their remote farm, which is usually one of her favorite places but even that has changed. Her best friend, Ruby Lee, is changing too because the color of their skin has become all the more important in North Carolina as the school desegregate. When it looks like the girls will be going to school together, they struggle with their friendship under the rules of their parents and grandparents and their own high expectations. Sarah has a lot to navigate in this summer before middle school.

Based on the author’s family history with a car accident and a sibling, this book’s real heart is the family itself. The warmth of the grandparents’ love and care during the tragedy are palpable as they feed Sarah all sorts of good homemade cooking and teach her skills in the kitchen too. Sarah discovers that she is surrounded by people who care, but even that is not enough to assuage her guilt at what has happened to her sister as well as her guilt about how she treats Ruby Lee.

As this guilt builds, it becomes almost another character in the book, unspoken and real. It traps the real Sarah beneath it, unable to speak of what she needs to say most desperately. This is an honest depiction of what it is to feel this level of responsibility and not be able to communicate that at all. The book embraces these large feelings, gives them space to come out and be revealed, and also shows how these emotions play into civil rights in a larger scale where guilt, tradition and societal expectations come together and stop forward momentum.

A powerful mix of personal story and Civil Rights history, this book shows how important change is at every level. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic Press.

 

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz

When I Am Happiest by Rose Lagercrantz, illustrated by Eva Eriksson (InfoSoup)

The third in the charming series about Dani, this book has school ending. Dani has now managed to finish the school year after her best friend moved away. She has a project to finish, a book about how happy she is. But then her father is hit by a car on his bicycle, and suddenly Dani is not happy at all. Dani is taken home by her grandparents where they wait for updates on her her father is doing. How can Dani ever finish her book now? And what will happen if her father never wakes up again?

Translated from the Swedish, this series is one of my favorites. Lagercrantz captures the emotions of having your best friend move away and then the long process of recovering from that. In this novel, she shows how a sudden accident can sweep the air out of your life as a child. Lagercrantz never lectures about being positive, but that’s exactly what her books embrace. Through Dani’s reactions to adversity, readers can see the power of positive thinking and how the good outweighs the bad even when you don’t realize it.

Eriksson’s art is done in line drawings that help break the text up, making this book just right for elementary readers who may still find large paragraphs overwhelming. The art is done with a sense of humor, such as the image of Dani getting her ears pierced with her father unable to look but bravely holding her hand anyway. When Dani is overwhelmed by the news of her father, you can see it in every bone of her body as it curves protectively inward.

Another winner in this great series, get these into the hands of fans of Clementine for another amazing young heroine. Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakava

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (InfoSoup)

Peppi has just started a new school when she manages to trip over her own feet in the crowded hallway. When a boy tries to help her, she panics and pushes him away when kids start to say she’s his “nerder girlfriend.” Peppi feels awful about this and buries herself in her new group of friends in the art club. Though she tries to avoid him, Jaime is everywhere. He’s assigned as her science tutor and is part of the science club, the art club’s arch rivals. Soon the two clubs are at war with one another, but Peppi is starting to be friends with Jaime. How can a budding middle school friendship survive the club apocalypse?

The story is over the top in a good way. It captures the story of Peppi, a nice artistic girl who just cannot bring herself to apologize to Jaime, even if she knows that what she did was wrong. So often protagonists are either completely socially inept or entirely extroverted, Peppi is a clear introvert but one with lots of friends and a clear social circle.

Chmakova has a style that will appeal to manga readers and anime viewers. She uses several tropes from those genres to great effect from the streaming tears on people’s faces in reaction to great dismay to the isolated images of angry leaders where they are backlit and scary. Chmakova also manages to keep her graphic novel very diverse, not only is Peppi herself diverse, but other characters who populate the story are diverse as well with a variety of racial, ethnic and abilities. It is subtly done and makes the entire book feel like a real school.

A dynamic graphic novel, this book will appeal to those in middle school and those headed there, artists and scientists alike. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from library copy.