Ms. Bartels Recommends
I thought this was going to be a lot like The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, which I liked, but which I didn't think was as good as everyone said. This tender, enchanting, funny story feels a bit like Jonasson's story in that it features a feisty older person who makes everyone around her look old and stodgy by comparison. But the heartbreak here is much more real, and this story of a family falling apart and then coming together after the death of a young boy will make you smile even as you are tearing up.
"The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don't they teach you anything at school?
So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who's been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she's confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.
One Saturday, he doesn't show up. Ona starts to think he's not so special after all, but then his father Quinn arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son's good deed. The boy's mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that even at her age the world can surprise you, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find yourself again." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 8+
Ms. Ricker Recommends
Cloud and Wallfish was a beloved Mock Newbery contender last winter, but because all five copies were constantly checked out, I never had a chance to read it. I finally wrangled a copy from my local library and now I understand why I had a hard time getting my hands on a copy. Can you imagine that one day your parents pick you up from school, put you on an airplane and tell you that your name is not your name and your birthday is not your birthday? Noah must start a new life in East Germany in 1989 with no friends and no idea who he is and what is really going on. Students who enjoy books that feature vivid historical details will appreciate the "Secret Files" that the author includes in each chapter. Students who enjoy thrillers and puzzle-solving as well as history-comes-to-life will love this book.
"Noah Keller has a pretty normal life, until one wild afternoon when his parents pick him up from school and head straight for the airport, telling him on the ride that his name isn't really Noah and he didn't really just turn eleven in March. And he can't even ask them why – not because of his Astonishing Stutter, but because asking questions is against the newly instated rules. (Rule Number Two: Don't talk about serious things indoors, because Rule Number One: They will always be listening). As Noah – now "Jonah Brown" – and his parents head behind the Iron Curtain into East Berlin, the rules and secrets begin to pile up so quickly that he can hardly keep track of the questions bubbling up inside him: Who, exactly, is listening – and why? When did his mother become fluent in so many languages? And what really happened to the parents of his only friend, Cloud-Claudia, the lonely girl who lives downstairs? In an intricately plotted novel full of espionage and intrigue, friendship and family, Anne Nesbet cracks history wide open and gets right to the heart of what it feels like to be an outsider in a world that's impossible to understand." ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 6+
Ms. Kazan Recommends
To say a book is powerful sounds overused and clichéd, but it perfectly describes this story. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, The Hate U Give is relevant and realistic and doesn’t shy away from some harsh truths. Thomas’s prose is convincing and powerful, and though the plot is seen through first-person narrator Starr, there are several secondary characters who allow for diverse viewpoints. This debut novel has reached number one on The New York Times young adult best-seller list, and I’m pleased that it has found its way into the hands of so many readers. For more information, read this great article from the Times, “New Crop of Young Adult Novels Explores Race and Police Brutality,” which features The Hate U Give.
“Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does – or does not – say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.” ~from the publisher
Recommended for: Grades 9+