The Pura Belpre winner for 2013, this book tells it like it is and pulls no punches. It's gritty, urban, and utterly realistic and honest. I was pulle...moreThe Pura Belpre winner for 2013, this book tells it like it is and pulls no punches. It's gritty, urban, and utterly realistic and honest. I was pulled into Piddy's world right from the start, and I would highly recommend this book for teens who want books about the way the world really is, the way things happen when no adults are watching. With themes of bullying, friendship, missing parents, Latin culture and more, many readers will relate to Piddy and her troubles.
Here's a summary from the publisher's website--
One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn't even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she's done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn't Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn't kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she's never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy's life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? (less)
Loved this one!! So much fun to read. (Note: It's a gentle read, although children may ask where Bo came from, or why a good-time girl might find hers...moreLoved this one!! So much fun to read. (Note: It's a gentle read, although children may ask where Bo came from, or why a good-time girl might find herself unhappily pregnant. It's not dwelt on in the text.)
Here's Danielle's review from our Best Books Blog:
Growing up in the 1920s, Bo lives a happy life, although it is not the traditional historical fiction life. Like many heroines, Bo has no parents, but unlike them she is not being raised by relatives. Instead Bo is raised by Arvid and Jack, two gold miners who took her in after her mother, Mean Millie (one of the good time girls mentioned in the book), shoved her baby at them and got on a boat.
This charming novel follows Bo when she is about five and living an extremely full life. The village she is raised in consists of miners and Eskimos, as she refers to them. The book has episodes both quiet and very, very exciting. For example, one chapter consists of Bo getting dressed in the morning and what she and the miners have for breakfast, which sounds dull, but Hill's descriptions make it fascinating. A more traditionally exciting interlude involves Bo being chased by a grizzly.
This book, with fantastic illustrations by LeUyen Pham, would make a great read alike for lovers of Laura Ingalls Wilder or the Betsy Tacy books. Like these books, it may seem like a traditional "girl" book but like Laura and Betsy, Bo will captivate both boys and girls who read about her.(less)
Great, beautiful picture book telling the story of a herd boy in South Africa. The large spreads allow for lots of detail and sweeping scenes of the o...moreGreat, beautiful picture book telling the story of a herd boy in South Africa. The large spreads allow for lots of detail and sweeping scenes of the outdoors.You really get a sense of their daily life rhythms, food, relationships, etc. The challenges of keeping a herd safe from baboons, canyons, etc. are well portrayed. Malusi's dream of becoming president and his friend's dream of playing professional soccer (football) help the reader to think beyond their present experiences.
Nelson Mandela visits their village and encourages Malusi's dream at the end of the book, and an author's note points out that Mandela started as a herd boy, as did David from the Bible.
This book would be a great read-aloud for a family or classroom.(less)
Hold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will lik...moreHold Fast contains elements of Balliett's earlier books (such as Chasing Vermeer), with math and language puzzles and a Chicago backdrop, and will likely be enjoyed by her fans. This book will catch you up in the action and also make you think about life in America today. Recommended for readers from 4th-10th grade (good for those who are "reading up") or as a read-aloud for families with children those ages.
What sets this book apart from her previous ones is its compassionate and realistic portrayal of people who find themselves, for whatever reason, homeless and in a homeless shelter--which, while it is better than the streets, contains a lot of challenges.
The Pearl family loves language, loves words, loves books. Dashel (the dad) loves them so much, he works in the library and plans to get a library degree sometime soon. He passes this love of words and rhythms of language on to his children, Early and Jubilation, and his wife, Summer. Their family lives in a small apartment and dreams of someday owning a house, but for now, their home is full of love and they are content.
Life gets more complicated when Dash takes an extra job on the side delivering old books. He's not sure exactly who's buying these books or why, but it's a good gig and he loves books, so he doesn't worry too much. One book comes through his hands that he can't resist keeping--Langston Hughes' The First Book of Rhythms, so he pays his source some money for it, and this book and its rhythms permeate the rest of Hold Fast.
One day, Dash disappears, and a few days later it becomes clear that he had been mixed up in something big, something bad, something so complex the authorities can't sort it out. The family apartment is completely ransacked and destroyed, even the door, so they move out, because "you can't live in an apartment without a door."
In the context of a homeless shelter, Early starts a new school and Summer tries to report the crime and get a job, all while taking care of young Jubilation (Jubie). The realities of life are harsh for them--sickness is passed around at the shelter, schoolmates are cruel, authorities won't listen, and worst of all, they don't have Dash with them. Summer slowly gives up and retreats into herself, depressed and hopeless, leaving Early to watch over her brother and solve the mystery of Dash's disappearance.
**spoiler alert--you should stop reading here if you want to read the mystery for yourself--
(If you just want to know the ending, I will say this--it is cautiously optimistic about the Pearl family.)
She contacts her dad's favorite teacher from school, but doesn't get as much information as she needs. She heads back to the public library to interview her dad's coworkers, some of whom were suspiciously hired at the time the unofficial book business began. Although some are hardened criminals, a few are sympathetic to Early and help her along.
In the end, it turns out criminals were smuggling diamonds in the spines of the books (old books' spines are stronger)--and not just any diamonds, the diamonds from the famous Antwerp heist.
Dash had been kidnapped by them but had escaped, and was wandering the streets until it was safe. Once he reads in the paper that the crime has been cracked, he starts asking at every shelter, and eventually finds his family.
He can return to his job at the public library once his strength returns, which is wonderful. However, I couldn't help reflecting on how tenuous their life still is. One wrong move, and their apartment was destroyed and their family torn apart. They are rebuilding now, but if he lost his job for some reason, they still have no safety net. How many families live their lives this way? Far too many, for a host of complex reasons. This great book asks these questions and more as it gives a face to homelessness today. (less)
I tried reading this one and was annoyed by the narrator. If I gave it more time maybe I'd have a different opinion. I love the cover and the setting....moreI tried reading this one and was annoyed by the narrator. If I gave it more time maybe I'd have a different opinion. I love the cover and the setting... It's set during the time of building the trans-continental railroad. Part of the conflict is how the narrator treats the Chinese people. I think. (less)
Summary: Girl on field trip ditches her class to take ride on airboat with local guy to remote part of Everglades. Boat sinks while they eat lunch. Th...moreSummary: Girl on field trip ditches her class to take ride on airboat with local guy to remote part of Everglades. Boat sinks while they eat lunch. Their only hope of survival is to walk out--which will take days.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved it so much, I made Alex watch a documentary so I could see the Everglades!
The characters are fascinating, too, not just the survival part. The main characters are Sarah, a smart black girl who's on a swimming scholarship at a private school and not really fitting in, and Andy, a local redneck with a deadbeat dad and a secret to keep. Their interactions are as interesting as you'd expect, with a mixture of romance and frustration, honesty and disbelief.
The descriptions of nature--skies, birds, moon, alligators, etc.--were my favorite thing about the book. A close second was the super-realistic way it was written. The time seems to drag by, with each morning, noon, and night described, and each bit of food and water slowly consumed. Sarah's attitude about the whole thing is often defeatist--she regularly sits down and refuses to move. I loved these things about the book, since many survival books go from crisis to crisis and the protagonist is often unflaggingly determined. Sarah was a survival protagonist I could relate to, and these facts made the book more interesting for me--the book itself did not drag on.
Teapot the duckling provides a lot of comic relief throughout the book.
Highly recommended for teens who like survival books, animal books, or realistic fiction, or who are fans of Carl Hiassen's books.
(I think it would be appropriate for tweens but I don't remember exactly; I wasn't reading it with that in mind.)(less)
This book is most notable to me for the peaceful way it is written. There is basically no suspense at all, although the subject matter includes mean g...moreThis book is most notable to me for the peaceful way it is written. There is basically no suspense at all, although the subject matter includes mean girls and even child abuse of a friend. The main character (Anna) spends most of her time reading and views the world in a quite detached manner. She's ABC (American born Chinese) and sometimes feels ashamed of her culture, although she comes to a peace about it at the end. She wishes her friend Laura would stick with her instead of chasing after the alpha girl in school, and sometimes refuses to play with her to teach her a lesson. But when Laura needs a safe place away from her father, Anna and her family step up.
Other characters include a delightful widower who they visit on the weekends where Anna's mom cleans, and Ray the crossing guard.
Anna is also a crafty sort and makes Halloween costumes and drawstring bags and hats and things.
It reminded me a little of Because of Mr. Terupt--mostly it is just a story about a middle-grade girl (4th) dealing with life, school, family, and friends.(less)
Beautiful book tells of Tua and the elephant she rescues--and then what she does with it! The Thailand setting and characters are wonderfully describe...moreBeautiful book tells of Tua and the elephant she rescues--and then what she does with it! The Thailand setting and characters are wonderfully described.(less)
Wow! I had read this book a long time ago but had forgotten how good it is. Very gripping--you never know what will happen next--will her mom die? wil...moreWow! I had read this book a long time ago but had forgotten how good it is. Very gripping--you never know what will happen next--will her mom die? will her (boy)friend run away? will her grandma get intercepted by the scheming uncles? It's based on the author's grandma's story, which adds an extra awesome layer. Loved it!(less)
This is a great realistic fiction series to recommend to "girly girls" with lots of talk about dresses and friendship. That said, I was a little disap...moreThis is a great realistic fiction series to recommend to "girly girls" with lots of talk about dresses and friendship. That said, I was a little disappointed by the writing style; it's a little difficult to remember which girl is which, the way the narration switches back and forth.(less)