June 28, 2018

Cover Crush: The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas

I love book covers! I love walking around Barnes and Noble just looking at all the different covers.  A good cover will make me pull the book off the shelf!  
It's almost like I have a crush on them :)

Today I'm crushin' on:

About the Book:
There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident--two girls dead after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know his reasons. Monica's sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they'd lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it's not that easy. She just wants to forget.

Only, Monica's world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad's desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn't over. Some people in town know more than they're saying. And somehow, Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn't mean anyone else is safe.

Why I'm crushing:
Ok so this isn't the typical cover I'd crush on BUT it totally intrigues me! The second I saw this I had to look into it more! 

June 27, 2018

WoW: What If It's Us

There are some books I just can't wait for.  

Here's where I share! 

What if It's Us
Becky Albertalli
Adam Silvera
Due Out: October 9th

ARTHUR is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

BEN thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them . . . ?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t nail a first date even after three do-overs?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?

What if it’s us?

Why I'm waiting:

I saw Becky a few weeks back and she talked about this book.  Immediately I knew I had to read it!  AND it's written with Adam Silvera! 

June 26, 2018

Audiobook Review: Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate

Title: Crenshaw
Author: Katherine Applegate
Narrator: Kirby Heyborne

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times. There's no more money for rent. And not much for food, either. His parents, his little sister, and their dog may have to live in their minivan. Again.

Crenshaw is a cat. He's large, he's outspoken, and he's imaginary. He has come back into Jackson's life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?

What a great little book! I had seen this book around and thought it looked interesting.  When it appeared on the Maud Hart Lovelace list, I knew it was time to read it.  Well in this case - to listen to it.  I'm very glad that I did.  It's the story of a young boy whose family is facing being homeless again.  To help him cope with this his imaginary friend reappears - Crenshaw.  I loved Crenshaw.  He made me laugh, he made me cry a little and he gave hope.  He appears to help Jackson "tell the truth". As the reader and an adult, I pretty much knew the truth he needed to admit to, but watch Jackson learn this himself was so well done.  I can see kids gain the understanding that Jackson gains.  I can also see kids learning about being homeless and what that means.  That is the true heart of this book - helping kids learn about homelessness.  It's not the image they might have.  People who are homeless might look just like students they sit next to in class.  What a strong understanding to gain.  This book handles the fact of being homeless in a perfect way for kids because it shows them how it doesn't happen all of a sudden.  And it doesn't happen because you are a "bad" person.  We talk so much about books needing to be mirrors and windows.  This is strong as both.  For the kids in my school it would be a window into a world they don't know a lot about.  But it would be such a great mirror for kids in the same place as Jackson's family.  Well done.

Thoughts on the audiobook: I really enjoyed the audiobooks.  The narrator did a fantastic job bringing Crenshaw to life! That was the strongest part of the reading for me! 

Final Thoughts: Loved it.  So glad I finally read it. 
Thoughts on the library: Yes! for the reasons I talked about above.  

June 21, 2018

2018 Audie Award Winners

A bit ago I shared the finalists for the Audie Awards.
Well today I'm sharing the winners!


By Angie Thomas
Read by Bahni Turpin


By Jack Cheng
Read by Kivlighan de Montebello, Brittany Pressley, Michael Crouch, and a full cast
Listening Library


By Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews
Read by Dion Graham
Live Oak Media


By Angie Thomas
Read by Bahni Turpin

And again - I haven't listened to any of these, and I need to!!!! 

If you want to hear clips of the winners or see other finalists - check them out HERE.

June 20, 2018

Book Review: Argos: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog by Ralph Hardy

Title: Argo: The Story of Odysseus as Told by His Loyal Dog
Author: Ralph Hardy
Copy Obtained: From publisher

From a compelling new voice in middle grade comes a reimagination of The Odyssey told from the point of view of Odysseus’s loyal dog—a thrilling tale of loyalty, determination, and adventure.

For twenty years, the great hero Odysseus struggles to return to Ithaka. After ten years beneath the walls of Troy, he begins the long journey back home. He defeats monsters. He outsmarts the Cyclops. He battles the gods. He struggles to survive and do whatever it takes to reunite with his family.

And what of that family—his devoted wife, Penelope; his young son, Telemachos; his dog, Argos? For those twenty years, they wait, unsure if they will ever see Odysseus again. But Argos has found a way to track his master. Any animal who sets foot or wing on Ithaka brings him news of Odysseus’s voyage—and hope that one day his master will return. Meanwhile, Argos watches over his master’s family and protects them from the dangers that surround a throne without its king.

It has been a very long time since I read The Odyssey, so I will fully admit that a lot of what would be connections to the two stories were lost on me! I instead looked at it as a story of a dog's master as told by the dog.  I absolutely loved this concept, and I know that my students would love it as well.  What I really like about the book is that I can "sell" it to two different groups of readers.  I can sell it to the animal lovers that come in, AND I can sell it to the students who love to read adventure novels.  Wait - I can also sell it to my readers that like to read about gods and goddesses.  So that's great! 

I loved the character of Argos.  I'm a dog lover, so that helped.  What I liked about him was that he was loyal (of course), but also real.  There is a scene where he's taking a nap, and he's crabby that his nap was interrupted.  I loved that because it was what you'd think would happen with a dog or anyone! Who wants their nap interrupted.  That small scene made it much more real to me.  Silly I know, but true.  I also liked all the other animals in the story.  The birds made me giggle now and again.  

One aspect of the book I'll need to keep in mind when suggesting the books to kids is the language.  Some of the writing has an old-fashioned sound to it, and I know some kids will struggle with that.  And because of that, it can slow down the pace of the story.  For some kids this will be a big issue no matter how much they like dogs etc.  

Final thought: Fun to read the story from the perspective of the animal.  
Library Thoughts:  Yes I'd get it for the library, but would need to be a bit selective who I suggest it to.

Similar to: Any Rick Riordan book, Erin Hunt books.  

June 8, 2018

Daring Dreamers Club #1: Milla Takes Charge by Erin Soderberg

Title: Milla Takes Charge, Daring Dreamers Club #1
Author: Erin Soderberg
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review

Milla loves nothing more than imagining grand adventures in the great wide somewhere, just like Belle. She dreams of traveling the world and writing about her incredible discoveries. Unfortunately, there is nothing pretend about the fifth-grade overnight and Milla's fear that her moms won't let her go.

Enter Piper, Mariana, Zahra, and Ruby. Together with Milla, they form the Daring Dreamers Club and become best friends. But can they help Milla believe she's ready for this real grand adventure?

Diverse, talented, and smart--these five girls found each other because they all had one thing in common: big dreams. 

When I was offered this book for review I jumped at the chance.  I'm always looking for new series to add to the library or suggest to my readers.  And I loved the idea that this one contained an array of diverse characters that are pursuing their dreams.

What I like about this book is that if the reader doesn't relate to Milla the main character, there are several other characters they could connect with.  I love that! I'm wondering in future books if the narrator will shift to some of the other girls.  I also love that it shows girls supporting one another in their dreams.  It's such a great example of how we can do that in our own lives.  I've seen examples of that in other books but usually only between two friends, so it was nice to see a whole group supporting and helping each other.  

I really liked Milla.  She is so kind and thoughtful, but not to the point of being annoying.  I think the girls reading this will really like her too.  They'll wish they had a friend like her.  I also loved how her moms were shown in the story.  It was so matter-of-fact, and that was great.  I think kids now see it that way too a lot of times so they wouldn't need a big deal made of it.  

As for the story itself - nicely done.  As an adult, it was kind of simplified, but for the age group it's geared toward it was fine.  They'll relate and definitely be pulled in.  And in the end I think they'll want to learn more about the girls in the Daring Dreamers Club.

Final thought:  Great start to a new series for the tween set.
Library Thoughts: For an elementary with 3-5th graders for sure.  It's probably best for grades 3 and 4.  

June 3, 2018

Review: Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno

Title: Just Under the Clouds
Author: Melissa Sarno
Copy Obtained: From publisher for an honest review

Always think in threes and you'll never fall, Cora's father told her when she was a little girl. Two feet, one hand. Two hands, one foot. That was all Cora needed to know to climb the trees of Brooklyn.

But now Cora is a middle schooler, a big sister, and homeless. Her mother is trying to hold the family together after her father's death, and Cora must look after her sister, Adare, who's just different, their mother insists. Quick to smile, Adare hates wearing shoes, rarely speaks, and appears untroubled by the question Cora can't help but ask: How will she find a place to call home?

After their room at the shelter is ransacked, Cora's mother looks to an old friend for help, and Cora finally finds what she has been looking for: Ailanthus altissima, the "tree of heaven," which can grow in even the worst conditions. It sets her on a path to discover a deeper truth about where she really belongs.

This is the second book about being homeless that I've read recently.  That book (Crenshaw) dealt more with a family that was on the verge of becoming homeless while this book focuses on a family that is already homeless.  Although being homeless is not the only thing this book looks at.  Cora is still dealing with the loss of her father, and she has her sister to worry about.  It's a lot for a young girl.  So when she's put in a situation where she can make a friend, she doesn't trust it.  I think that part of the book made me the saddest.  I've kids like that while teaching.  You can tell they've been bounced around so much that they don't even bother to try to connect to the people around them.  I wanted to tell Cora that it would be ok, and she could make a friend but honestly, with situation her family is in, it was clearly possible they would move again.  It saddened me.  

That said - I think this would be a good book for middle school students.  I live in an area with very little homelessness, at least in the traditional sense.  I believe we have homeless students at my school, but they don't live in a shelter or in their car.  They might live with others instead.  And that is what ends up happening in this book, so I think it would be a great example to show my students what homelessness can look like.  It doesn't mean you leave on the street.  There are other types.  And I think kids, where I live, need to see that and understand that.  I've always believed that books should show students what they know so they know they aren't alone BUT they should always show students what they don't know so they learn how to empathize.  Thankfully Cora is a great character that I think will really draw the reader in and allow this to happen. 

Final thoughts: Great story with strong characters that grow and change.  
Library thoughts: For sure I would put this in my library for the reasons I discussed above!