Monday, May 14, 2018

Mapping the Bones by Jane Yolen

Chaim and Gittel are 14 year old twins who must endure unbearable hardships during the Holocaust.  In 1942 Poland, the Abromowitz family is forced to share an apartment with another family who are less than hospitable.  Though the other family is hard to deal with, the Abromowitz family cannot leave them behind especially when the father goes missing.  Chaim must overcome his fear to sell his mother's engagement ring to get the money to leave the ghetto before they are all deported to a concentration camp.  They make a plan to go through the forest, but not everyone makes it through.  When, Chaim and Gittel meet up in the forest, they have hard choices to make about who they will be able to trust.  Needless to say, they met more horrible people including Dr. Mengele who wants to perform awful experiments on them.  How will they survive?  But, they must survive.

I have to admit.  This story was hard to read.  Stories about the Holocaust are hard to read.  The atrocities seem unbelievable.  But, that is the EXACT reason that I must read them and share them with as many people as I can.  They happened.  If they happened due to hate and ignorance and bystanders looking the other way, then it could happen again if we do not do something.  This story will not be an easy one to read.  You will be disgusted by the awful part of humanity that reared its head during this time in history.  But, Yolen is able to weave in glimmers of hope as well.  Chaim is a poet, and she adds that piece to the story which shows how important poetry can be to help people express themselves and the thoughts of a group of people.

After writing The Devil's Arithmetic over 30 years ago, Yolen said that she would not write another Holocaust story.  It took her 4 years to write this one.  But, she did it because this story is one that needed telling.  Being her 365th or 366th book (because she had 2 drop on the same day), you need to read it.  Hear what Chaim and Gittel have to say.

Cover image for Mapping the bones

After Ever After by Jordan Sonnenblick

Jeffrey was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 4 years old.  We learn about his illness and his brother, Steven's, story in Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.  Now, Jeffrey is 13 years old, and he has to learn to navigate life after leukemia in middle school.  He is known as the kid who had cancer, and he wants to move past it.  Will he be able to do that?  And, Steven is absent.  He is half way around the world and does not respond to emails--no matter how many Jeffrey sends to him.  Jeffrey is not sure how to make it without his brother especially when the pressures of middle school start weighing on him.  Take my advice.  Read this book AND Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie.  It really is a must!

When I read Knockout, I was reminded of After Ever After because they are both stories about the little brother who was sick and is now navigating life in middle school.  The authors wrote them in very different styles, but you will tissues with both of them.  I am pretty sure there is a man who works out at the YMCA who still tells of the crazy woman sobbing next to him on the treadmill.  That crazy woman would be me.  I laughed and cried throughout this book.  You will NOT be disappointed with this great read.  (But, honestly, go ahead and get both.  You can't read just one.)
Cover image for After ever afterCover image for Drums, girls, & dangerous pie or the other cover looks like this.Cover image for Drums, girls & dangerous pie

Knockout by K A Holt

Levi wants to be treated like a regular kid.  Yes, he was very sick as an infant.  But, he is fine now.  Really, he is.  Mostly, he is.  At least, he hopes he is.  His mom and brother are overprotective is all.  His dad understands.  He wants to participate in a sport.  At least, his dad wants him to participate in a sport.  Levi decides that he will try boxing to satisfy his dad and see if he really is okay.  The thing that is COMPLETELY unexpected is that he is really good at boxing.  What will happen if his mom and brother find out?  Will he be well enough to find out how good he really is at this sport?  You can find out in Knockout by Holt.

Now, the thing that I did not mention is that this is the sequel to House Arrest.  Levi was the sick infant whose brother risked everything to save and whose dad ran out when he could not handle the pressure.  Levi doesn't know what we as readers of the first story know.  He has to figure it out for himself.  And, I can honestly say that Holt delivers a great "rest of the story" for Levi.

Cover image for Knockout

Friday, February 16, 2018

Scythe by Neal Shusterman

In a society that proclaims to have eradicated poverty, war, disease and all other problems that plague mankind, everything should be perfect.  But, to keep these things in check, there must be a group that takes care of population control. This is where the elite group of scythes come in.  They must "glean" people.  This group is highly revered and feared and have been performing this task for many years.  One day, Scythe Faraday decides to take two apprentices, Citra and Rowan, who are just 16 years old.  In just one year, they must learn how to kill people efficiently and humanely.  Is that even possible for a 16 year old to do?  Scythe Faraday assures them that he has chosen them both for a reason and that he will teach them himself.  Until, in an unexpected turn of events, he is no longer able to mentor them.  They are both given to other scythes that may not have the same beliefs as Scythe Faraday.  Will they survive to become scythes?  Do they want to survive the training?  What kind of society would ask this of some of the citizens? 

Find out in this gripping first in a series novel by Neal Shusterman.

I have read many books by Shusterman, and he does not disappoint in this new series.  In fact, I came away thinking about the many lessons to be learned from it.  That, ladies and gentlemen, is what I call a good read. 


Monday, February 12, 2018

Refugee by Alan Gratz

Josef is a Jewish boy living in 1930s Nazi Germany.  His family found a ship to board to leave Germany, and they got onto it. 

Isabel is a Cuban girl in 1994.  Castro said that Cuban citizens could leave if they chose, and her family chose to go to America in the hopes and dreams of finding a better life.

Mahmoud is a Syrian boy in 2015.  His family must leave their home country to survive.

All 3 of these young people are refugees from their respective countries.  They MUST flee to survive.  Will they make it to their chosen destination? 

Gratz does a masterful job of telling these three stories independent of each other, but he ties them together in the end showing how much one's actions can affect others. 

This book is one that I would recommend to everyone because it gives a perspective that puts a human face to the refugee issue in our world.  Pick up this great read and learn from these 3 young voices. 

Scrambled Eggs at Midnight by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler

Calliope and Eliot meet in town under odd circumstances.  Both are fifteen; both have parents with interesting jobs; both are sure that their parents are weird; both are ready for a relationship; both do not tell the other at first. 

This is one of my favorite romance stories in the library.  I love it for several reasons including that it is told in multiple perspectives.  You hear from both Calliope and Eliot.  I think it is very important to remember that there are AT LEAST 2 sides to a story.  Most of the time we do not get to hear the other side, and we as humans do a poor job of guessing what the other person is thinking.  If we took the time to find out the real motivations behind others' actions, we would understand and empathize more with what is going on in the lives of others.  For me, that definitely makes for a good story.  Please take the time read this touching story.

Cover image for Scrambled eggs at midnight

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen

Bryce and Juli are in 8th grade now, but to really understand their story, you have to look back to 2nd grade when Bryce moved in across the street.  Juli was so excited to have someone her age that she went straight over to help out.  She just knew that they would be best friends.  Bryce had other ideas that did not include Juli AT ALL.  Now that they are in 8th grade, things may just have flipped.  Find out in this wonderfully written story about friendship, love and family.  This is an Oldie But A Goodie--and I do mean a goodie.