Notes from the Midnight Driver

Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick.

Released in October.

It rarely happens, but every so often I start reading a book and realize on the first page that this is a book I am really going to enjoy.  This is one of those books. 

Alex is a 16-year-old who is angry at his parents for splitting up.  So he decides to shake them up a little by driving to his father’s house and telling him off.  Unfortunately, Alex has also been drinking and ends up beheading a neighbors lawn gnome. 

Alex is sentenced to 100 hours of service at a senior center where he is assigned to their toughest resident, Sol Lewis, a wise-cracking, hard-as-nails man who completely confuses Alex by calling him names in Yiddish.  Slowly and realistically, Alex and Sol begin to bond through their guitar playing and humor. 

The writing in this book is zingy, sparkling and energizing.  It is pure pleasure to read the wry observations of Alex that play off of Sol’s insults.  The adults, from Sol to the nurses to Alex’s parents, are well-drawn and fleshed out.  The novel speaks to the power of music, forgiveness of family members, and the forging of new connections.  But it is not heavyhanded because of the infectious humor.   There is no sex in the novel and the only violence comes from a beheading of a lawn ornament and Alex’s best friend Laurie’s anger at a headboard.   Teens with a sense of humor, and that is most of them, will enjoy this book. 

Readers are sometimes warned to have a tissue ready, but in this case make sure you are reading where you can laugh out loud.    This one makes it on to my top five of the year.  Solidly. 

Let's Play in the Forest While the Wolf Is Not Around

Let’s Play in the Forest While the Wolf Is Not Around
by Claudia Rueda. 

This winning picture book is based on a Colombian play-song and has the simple melody appended at the end of the book.  You can either read the book aloud or choose to sing it.  Either way, it is a lot of fun.  The book is about a group of animals who decide that they are going to play in the forest as long as the wolf is not there.  They call out, “Wolf are you there?” and the wolf replies that he is putting on his underwear, combing his hair, etc.  Then the next verse starts with them once again declaring that they will  play in the forest.  It goes round and round again, rhythmically building the tension as the wolf gets more and more ready….for school.

This is a natural read aloud that kids will adore.  It is even better if you learn the simple melody and sing it along with the children.  I can see this becoming a staple in preschools that is asked for again and again.  Enjoy!