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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

WOW! That was a hilarious read! The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas is so funny and super interesting! If you like comedies, fantasy books, books that include some Spanish and maybe a myth or folktale that comes to life, then this is made for you! This book is recommended for ages 8-12.

Nestor’s dad is in the army and because of that Nestor has had eight or nine first days of school. He has moved to five different places at least. But no matter what he does, he always follows his one rule, DON’T MAKE FRIENDS BECAUSE IT WILL BE TOO HARD TO LEAVE THEM. Nestor also has a secret, he can talk to animals! Nestor isn’t exactly happy with his ability because the raven that lives in his neighborhood can be pretty annoying sometimes. Nestor likes to go into the forest sometimes to chat with other animals like a deer.

When he visits them just before going to school on the first day of school, he has a little chat about what he should pretend to be, for example he could be the brainy one, the athletic one etc. Sometimes Nestor thinks what the animals tell him could bring him into detention for a month, so he just acts like himself. After talking to his science partner, Talib, he discovers that his dog went missing and also after overhearing a girl called Maria Carmen he discovers that her goats went missing. He thinks something is definitely wrong when other people in the town report their pets missing. And even worse, all of the people in the town think it’s his grandma who is making all of the animals disappear! Nestor is sad that he can’t write to dad about all of this because that would be breaking his mom’s rule, Always be positive, Always be Happy. Nestor accidentally makes friends with Maria Carmen and Talib.

One day Nestor sees his grandma sneak into the woods with a knife and gets super suspicious and scared. When Maria Carmen invites Nestor to her home, her mom wants him to leave as soon as possible as soon as she hears his last name. When Nestor figures out what the thing is that is taking the animals, he also realizes that the thing gets stronger with every eclipse and the next eclipse is coming up!

I love this book because of how funny it is! Seriously, this line is classic, “The faded sign outside New Haven Middle School declares HOME OF THE FIGHTING ARMADILLOS. The only fighting I’ve ever seen an armadillo do is against a truck on a highway. And they don’t usually win.” Like how funny is that? Another reason I love this book is because you don’t usually come across books with kids that have superpowers – well, actually you do, but none of them are this good. No offense to other superhero books.

**Thanks so much to Sofia for this review! We love books that are funny!**

 

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Love in English
Author: Maria E. Andreu
Published: February 2, 2021 by Balzer + Bray

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Ana has just moved to New Jersey from Argentina for her Junior year of high school. She’s a poet and a lover of language—except that now, she can barely understand what’s going on around her, let alone find the words to express how she feels in the language she’s expected to speak.

All Ana wants to do is go home—until she meets Harrison, the very cute, very American boy in her math class. And then there’s her new friend Neo, the Greek boy she’s partnered up with in ESL class, who she bonds with over the 80s teen movies they are assigned to watch for class (but later keep watching together for fun), and Altagracia, her artistic and Instagram-fabulous friend, who thankfully is fluent in Spanish and able to help her settle into American high school.

But is it possible that she’s becoming too American—as her father accuses—and what does it mean when her feelings for Harrison and Neo start to change? Ana will spend her year learning that the rules of English may be confounding, but there are no rules when it comes to love.

With playful and poetic breakouts exploring the idiosyncrasies of the English language, Love in English tells a story that is simultaneously charming and romantic, while articulating a deeper story about what it means to become “American.”

Ricki’s Review: I read this book and immediately thought of the many people who would love reading it. It does a beautiful job offering a lived experience of a young girl who is finely attuned to language acquisition. I have been meeting regularly with two students who have shared similar experiences to those of Ana, and I plan to share this book with them. For many, this book will act as a mirror, window, and sliding glass door. I understand fully the criticism this book has received–Maria E. Andreu writes in the opening that she was born in Spain, and her grandparents moved from Spain to Argentina as toddlers. She grew up in the US, traveled to Argentina at age 6 and then was not allowed to return to the US. She was undocumented at age 8 in the US. She talks about her experiences with this and with White privilege in powerful ways in The Secret Side to Empty. My thoughts about this controversy are not as valuable as those of a person with Latinx descent. In the end, I do wish that the character more closely matched Maria E. Andreu’s story rather than that of a native Argentinian. I loved the book and appreciated all that it taught me about Maria E. Andreu’s experiences with language, and there simply aren’t enough books available that explicitly discuss the linguistic diversity within our schools. this book is one that I will remember for quite some time.

Kellee’s Review: One of the things I love most about my school is the amount of diversity and the acceptance and inclusion of all in the school; we do not care where you are from or what language you speak–you are welcome with open arms!  While reading Love in English, I found myself being so upset with the students and some of the teachers in Ana’s school. Why was her ethnicity and language acquisition something that anyone would find funny or bully-worthy?! But then I remember that other places are not like my school… 

I also found myself connecting with Mr. T the ELL teacher! When I first started working at my school, I was intimidated with teaching ELL students because I didn’t think I would be of any help with someone learning English when it was the only language I knew. But throughout my first few years there, I began to learn that teaching ELL students is one of my favorite honors of being a teacher. My 7th year teaching, I taught a class much like Mr. T’s class, and it is one of my favorite classes I’ve ever taught. Mr. T shows how an ELL class, done correctly, can truly become home at school. 

Also, as a reading teacher & librarian at a school with a large Latinx population, primarily from South America, I found that it is so hard to find books that truly reflect my students’ experiences, but Love in English is a mirror for so many of them! It made me so happy while reading because I know that Ana’s experience is one that they will connect with. 

Overall, this story looks at language acquisition in a way that I have not seen in another book and it does so during a wonderful story with some amazing poetry woven throughout. I also love that the language acquisition aspect is own voices. Although this aspect is own voices, I do wish that Ana’s backstory was own voices as well to ensure authenticity of all parts of the story; however, I feel like Maria’s explanation of this choice shows it was thoughtful (though, like Ricki shares, my opinion is not as valuable as a Latinx, and specifically an Argentinian).

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: We would love to use this book to teach about language and translanguaging. We’d group texts that help us think about the power of discussions related to the nuances of language.

Ana, throughout the novel, focuses on aspects of English in her journal. Use Ana’s journals to guide activities on some of the more challenging and, some would say, nonsensical parts of English, like idioms, similar looking words that are pronounced differently, and more.

Ana’s journals are written in beautiful poetry! Use Ana’s poetry for a mentor text to have students write poetry about similar topics to Ana.

Many of Mr. T’s activities that he implemented in his classroom are amazing activities to work with students acquiring a new language. If you are in a language-focused classroom, they would be assets to your classroom.

Discussion Questions:

  • How does language influence the ways in which Ana moves in the world?
  • How do Ana’s relationships with family and friends impact her life?
  • What is the significance of the title of the book?
  • How might the author’s perspective have influenced her work?
  • Why does Mr. T recommend Ana and Neo watch movies as part of their language acquisition?
  • What is the impact of the author’s use of ### since Ana is the narrator?
  • What is a part of the English language that you find confusing?
  • How did the year that Ana and her dad were apart affect their current relationship?
  • Why was Ana so drawn to a relationship with Harrison at first?
  • How was Altagracia’s friendship lifechanging for Ana?

Flagged Passage: 

“‘We don’t have to speak English,’ I tell her. I think–

We don’t have to do it this way.

We don’t have to make it so hard.

We don’t have to erase everything about us. At least not all at once.

—but I do not say it” (Advanced Reader Copy p. 35).

Recipe for Disaster

How do you get an apple in your eye?
Just how easy is pie? 

Who would eat crow or eat their heart out? 
Or how could anyone eat enough hay to eat like a horse? 
How can a potato sit on the couch?
In a world where so many thins are confusing, even food, 
I dream of a day when it is a piece of cake.” (Digital Review Copy Loc 1125)

Read This Book If You Loved: The Secret Side to Empty by Maria E. Andreu, Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez, Ask Me No Questions by Marina Budhos, Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok, Illegal by Bettina Restrepo

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  RickiSig and
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“Insights from a First Time Author”

Hello! My name is Vali Benson and I have been a writer all my life. I can also now call myself a published author. It still seems like a dream, but it’s true. Ever since I can remember, I have had a book in my hand. As a lifelong reader, I often thought, “I could do better than that”. So I decided to finally do something about it. People have asked me to explain the writing process but I can’t. I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way to write a book. But I do know what works for me.

The first step is to come up with an idea. It must be something that interests you, or that you feel strongly about. If you don’t care what you are writing about, you will simply get board and the work will suffer. Once when I had severe writers block, a great teacher told me, “Write about what’s in your own backyard”. I took my teacher’s advice and turned in an award winning essay. That was the inspiration in writing my book; a young adult historical fiction novel called Blood and Silver. The story takes place in Tombstone, Arizona. For thirty years, I have lived in Tucson, Arizona. Tombstone is only forty five minutes down the road, practically backyard distance.

The population of Tombstone today sits at about thirteen hundred. On the weekends, many of the residents dress up in western garb – as cowboys, sheriffs, frontier gamblers, proper matrons and saloon girls. At first glance, it seems as though this may be a retirement community designated for extras of John Ford films. However, Tombstone does have one enduring claim to fame – the shoot out at the O.K. Corral.  It is called “the most famous thirty seconds in the history of the American west”. The legendary incident is a gunfight that occurred in 1881. The shoot out involved Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp and two Earp brothers against a gang of outlaws called the Cowboys. Three men were killed, all of them Cowboys. The Earps and Doc Holiday were already famous in the west.  The gunfight made them infamous.

Tombstone was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco in 1884, with over 150 businesses, including 100 saloons, and a thriving red light district. Apparently this arid little tourist trap, only forty five minutes from my hometown, was more important than I thought!

This information began to spin my inquisitive wheels.  I began to wonder what it would have been like to live in this obscure place in 1880. The first step was complete; I had a premise that sparked my interest.  Now, it was time for the part of the writing process that gives life to the story, research.

Research is pivotal no matter the genre. It allows the author to properly prepare the reader so that they are engaged in the narrative. One needs to look in unusual places, not just the top three Google hits. I love sourcing museums, libraries, newspaper archives, and even historical homes. Don’t rely on your computer only. Everyone can get that information. Not only is it not original, it is not interesting.

One tip that I would like to emphasize to a burgeoning writer is to seek out primary sources whenever possible. If you can work from the original source, it falls on you to interpret the story. This allows you to not have to depend on someone else’s version of the truth.

As I began to delve deeper into the true story of Tombstone, I also uncovered unexpected angles. The most prominent of which was the effect of the Chinese population. The result of this research led me to a real person whom I could never had made up, a woman named “China Mary”. This woman lived in Tombstone from 1879 – 1906 and essentially ran the town. In addition to operating a gambling hall behind her general store, she was also the preeminent broker for opium, laudanum and Chinese prostitutes. After I discovered the real life splendor of China Mary, I made her one of my central characters and twisted my fictional story around her actual exploits. None of that could have been possible without an extensive research period.

Being a writer of historical fiction, historical accuracy is the most important component of the piece to me. It is even more pivotal than the narrative. I cannot tell you how many times I have quit reading a book that claims to be factual because the information and events are incorrect. It really annoys me! It is also important to realize that research is never ending because you can’t ever learn everything there is to know. At some point, you just have to make up your mind that you have enough to craft the story you want to write. Then start writing!  I begin writing using my research as a reference and don’t worry if I have a fully formed concept. I believe in the Jodi Picoult approach, “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page”.

Many writers believe in outlines as a method of organizing and categorizing their research. Outlines don’t work for me. I tend to be too specific.  I end up writing the whole story in my outline.  What works best for me is to simply write.  Just start, and see where it takes you.  I flesh out the characters first. You can do whatever you want with your people, just be sure you wind it up so that it makes sense.

As far as my writing habits are concerned, I don’t have many. I just do it. I know that many professional writers say the best method is to treat writing like a regular job with set start and stop times. I’ve tried this and it never feels right. For one thing, when I get on a creative roll, it is nearly impossible for me to stop. Conversely, I cannot force an idea. When I don’t feel like it’s happening, I walk away. I commit a lot of time thinking about my characters; which may be the most crucial part of the writing process. When inspiration strikes, I will sit down with my glass of sweet iced tea and see how my characters handle the new twist. I know that strong coffee is the traditional nectar of the working writer, but I need my sweet tea. The sweeter the better!

When your story is finished, it doesn’t mean that you’re done writing. Now is the time for my least favorite part of the writing process, editing. Editing is obviously extremely important but I find it terribly frustrating. I try to remember not to over edit as there is a difference between editing and rewriting. Aside from the occasional grammatical error, most of my editing is about subtraction rather than addition. I choose to think of my editing time as a tightening up period. This is when I can really focus on making my narrative flow the way that I want. I also make sure the story is always kept in perspective and unfold s the way that I want it to.

When is your story finished? It is finished when you think it is. Before you begin, you will know where you will end up. If you don’t, don’t start. This is why research is so important, because if I can understand the period in which my characters live, I can shape their circumstances and attitudes into the narrative.  With Blood and Silver, because I had taken the time to insure that every aspect of my world would be historically accurate, the attitudes and tones of my characters occurred organically. I simply placed my fictional characters into actual settings and let them take me where they wanted to go.

Thanks for reading and happy writing!
Best, Vali

Published August 3rd, 2020

About the Book: What is a twelve year old girl to do when she finds herself in the silver boom town of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1880, and her only home is a brothel and her only parent is a drug-addicted mother? If she is Carissa Beaumont, she outsmarts the evil madam and figures a way out.

After tricking the madam, Miss Lucille, into summoning a doctor for her mother, Lisette, she discovers that Miss Lucille has been drugging her. She and the kind doctor make a plan to try to save Lisette by dosing her down on the drug.

Doctor Henderson tells Carissa that the only source for the drug is a Chinese immigrant named China Mary, who lives in Hoptown, at the other end of Tombstone. Carissa has no choice but to go to the powerful woman for help. Many say that China Mary is the one who really controls Tombstone.

China Mary admires Carissa’s brave spirit, and uses her influence to get her a job at the new Grand Hotel, which will free Carissa from her many duties at Miss Lucille’s. She will work along with Mary’s twelve year old niece, Mai-Lin. The two girls become fast friends.

Then, disaster strikes, and the two girls must work together to stay alive.

With a host of colorful characters and meticulous attention to period detail, Blood and Silver is a story of the best and worst of human nature, the passion for survival and the beauty of true friendship.

About the Author: Vali grew up in the Midwest. She now lives in Tucson with her husband, two sons and grandchildren.

After graduating from the University of Illinois, Vali started and sold two successful businesses before she decided to pursue her real passion of writing. She published several articles in a variety of periodicals, including History Magazine before she decided to try her hand at fiction.

In April of 2020, Vali published her first novel, Blood and Silver. That same month, she was also made a member of the Western Writers of America.

Thank you, Vali, for sharing your experiences as a first time writer and for sharing your debut book!

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Sofia is an 9-year-old brilliant reader who aspires to be a book reviewer. On select Saturdays, Sofia shares her favorite books with kids! She is one of the most well-read elementary schoolers that we know, so she is highly qualified for this role!

Dear readers,

This book is something I have never seen before in my life, a different type of book. This book, The Van Gogh Deception by Deron Hicks, has QR codes! These QR codes, more about them later, show famous paintings that are being described on the page that the QR code is on. Most of the paintings are by Van Gogh but some are by other artists like Hans Holbein the Younger and Leonardo Da Vinci. This book is recommended for ages 10-12!

The book is about a boy. The boy had lost his memory, meaning he didn’t know who he was, where he lived or who his parents were. He was found in the National Gallery of Art, Gallery number 83 and was sitting on a bench there for most of the day. When the security guard comes to check on him because he finds his behavior suspicious, he finds out that he has lost his memory. The boy gets sent to the police station and then they realize he has amnesia which is when you lose your memory because of a blow or a traumatic event. They ask him questions about who he is and where he lives but he doesn’t know the answers to any of these questions. They send him to foster care and he ends up with a woman named Mary Sullivan and her ten-year-old daughter, Camille. The police also put an ad in the newspaper about the boy.

Meanwhile a man, who the book leaves in the dark at first, breaks into a person’s house and takes their phone and looks through their computer. The man has a whole team of grown-ups who are the best in their field in the whole world. This person, I will say no more about because everything needs to stay a surprise.

I love this book because of its amazing feature that I have never ever come across before, QR codes! It’s something extraordinary! I love how the QR codes bring you to different sites that show those paintings and let you experiment a bit with them, meaning you can sometimes watch a video about the painting or zoom it in and out and rotate the painting or, of course, the virtual painting. On one of the sites, while zooming in, I could even find a bristle of the paintbrush that Van Gogh himself used! If you do not know what a QR code is, then I can tell you. A QR code is a code which you have to scan using your mobile phone or tablet. You would enter the camera app and then hold the mobile device closeish to the QR code as if you were about to take a picture of it. Then after holding it there a while you would see a website pop up on the top of your screen. You would have to click on that link to the website on the top and then voilá! You’ve done it! If it doesn’t work maybe your phone or tablet is too old and does not have the technology in it to recognize the QR code. If you want to find out more about them, then do what I told you to do and scan this QR code! This one goes to Wikipedia’s page about QR codes!

Another reason that I love this book is the author’s style of writing. I love when they do different perspectives but I love even more when one of the perspectives is, figuratively speaking, “left in the dark”! Get your paint brushes out and get ready to read to them!

**Thanks so much to Sofia for this review! We love those books that are so, so difficult to put down!**

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Brave in the Woods
Author: Tracy Holczer
Published January 5th, 2021 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Summary: Critically acclaimed Tracy Holczer returns with a heartrending tale about a girl descended from the Grimm brothers who sets out to break what she thinks is a family curse.

Twelve-year-old Juni is convinced her family is cursed. Long ago, her ancestors, the Grimm Brothers, offended a witch who cursed them and their descendants to suffer through their beloved fairy tales over and over again—to be at the mercy of extreme luck, both good and bad. Juni fears any good luck allotted to her family she used up just by being born, so when she wakes up in the middle of the night with the horrible feeling like antlers are growing from her head, she knows something is wrong. The next day she learns her older brother Connor has gone missing during his tour in Afghanistan.

Her family begins grieving his loss in their own ways but Juni can’t help but believe that his disappearance means the family curse has struck again. Juni is convinced the only way to bring her brother home is to break the family curse and so she sets out on a quest to do just that.

From Charlotte Huck honoree Tracy Holczer comes a stunning new novel about the power of stories, the enormity of grief, and the brilliancy of hope.

About the Author: Tracy Holczer lives in Southern California with her husband, three daughters, and two rather fluffy dogs named Buster and Molly. She has a deep love for the mountains where she grew up, the lakes and rivers that crisscrossed her childhood, so she writes them into her stories. The Secret Hum of a Daisy was written in praise of both nature and family, and all that can be found there if you’re willing to hunt for treasure. Following her debut, Everything Else in the Universe was published, and  Brave in the Woods is her third novel.

Praise: 

★ “This is a beautiful tale of love and grief, friendship and family, and of hope. . . Give this to readers who loved Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Kate Allen’s The Line Tender. . . Holczer’s use of humor, thoughtful imagery, and magical realism elements makes this a wholly unique blend of modern fairy tale, hero’s quest, and coming-of-age story. A suggested purchase for all middle grade collections.” —School Library Journalstarred review

“Holczer’s clear, gentle prose allows the emotional and descriptive elements of the text to shine in this multilayered road-trip story . . . A thoughtful exploration of grief, family lore, and human connection.” —Kirkus Reviews

“By turns heartbreaking and humorous, this is a story that hints at the possibility of magic while remaining rooted in real-world problems and relationships. There is love and hope amid the grief and confusion, just as the Grimm tales contain both wonders and horrors in their own right. A heartfelt lesson on the power of love and the tales we tell ourselves.” —Booklist

Review: Brave in the Woods is the story of grief, hope, true friendship, love, and truth. With Holczer’s brilliance of story telling, just about every emotion is felt while reading this novel as Juni goes through all of the emotions alongside us. And with just a dash of magical realism, the story has a magical feeling weaved throughout it from beginning to end.

Add to these emotions a road trip, fun and unique characters, a dog (and a ornery cat), and a quirky family history, and you have a must read middle grade novel for so many readers who need this story.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Juni’s family legend says that they are related to the Grimm Brothers, so there are allusions to the Grimm fairy tales throughout the book. Use these to introduce and discuss allusions.

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why do you think the author chose a stag throughout the novel?
  • Why was it so important to Juni to get Elsie?
  • Which of the characters who helped Juni along the way do you like the best? Why?
  • How are Juni and Anya alike?
  • How are each of the characters grieving differently?
  • How does the author compare bees and asthma?
  • How does the author use the setting like a character to drive the plot?

Flagged Passages: “Chapter 1: Velvet Bones

Juniper felt it when her brother disappeared.

She was certain of this.

Oddly, her lungs didn’t go all wonky the way they sometimes did when bad things happened. Like a hive of bees inside her chest, using up every bit of her breath with their buzzing and swarming.

That feeling would come later.”

Read This If You Love: The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart, Ikenga by Nnedi Okorafor, Clean Getaway by Nic Stone, Other Tracy Holczer novels

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“Asking the Important Questions About Action Scenes”

I love a good scrap in my stories, and I always have. Battles, boss fights, chases, sports, middle grade novels are as filled with thrilling scenes of action as any other genre of fiction, and mine are no exception. These scenes are fun to write and can be a lot of fun to read, but that’s far from all they are, or all they should be. There is a lot written and said about how to compose a clear and well-paced action scene, but too often the “why” of those scenes is neglected.

There can be a tendency, I think, to assume there isn’t much narrative substance to be found in explosions, and that scenes of action are separate from the “serious” aspects of the story. While we may acknowledge the high, even mortal stakes of some of those climactic battles or other struggles, many of us still fail to appreciate them as and directly connect them to the deeper issues of fiction. While that type of action certainly isn’t necessary in order to tell a compelling and emotional story that conveys important lessons and truths, it also doesn’t detract from any of those things. To the contrary, the action in a novel can and should be as much a part of story and character arcs as any other scene, and can be a vibrant way to discuss those topics with young readers.

I grew up in the professional wrestling business. Many of the most important and formative lessons I learned about life, storytelling, and myself happened inside a wrestling ring, without words. Those experiences deeply inform the stories I write. Fight scenes in fiction are about more than flash and fury, they are about motivations. They have the ability to strip characters down to their purest sense of self and most unfiltered emotions. They are about the dynamic between the characters participating in the conflict. These are all things that can and should be examined when discussing action in stories. Action can be an easily accessible and entertaining window into the deeper human issues of any novel, and into the story being told.

There is perhaps no greater example of this than a professional wrestling match. While on the surface it can seem like no more than choreographed violence for its own sake, professional wrestling is, at its core and its best, a storytelling medium. The motivations of the wrestlers and the personal conflict and story unfolding between them often do more than simply enhance the stakes of the action and the outcome of their contest. When planned and executed well, that story is far more compelling and important than the outcome of the match itself. Wrestling fans don’t root for winners, they root for characters whose personalities and personal journeys connect with them.

This was at the forefront for me when I wrote Bump, some of the most important character and story scenes of which play out through professional wrestling matches. I wanted to write thrilling, fast-paced, and entertaining scenes of action that also provided a vehicle for my characters to grow as people and advance the story I was telling. The main character, MJ, is forced to confront all of her worst fears and insecurities about herself every time she steps through the ropes of a wrestling ring and in front of a frantic crowd of spectators. The journey she undertakes as she wrestles in her first matches is as important to her overall arc as all the events that take place outside the ring. That physical action provides MJ with opportunities for creative problem solving and personal reflection, and gives her a mirror for the problems she’s experiencing in her life, dealing with grief and isolation. Wrestling is the catalyst for her to overcome so much in such a unique and exciting way.

Action is like any other narrative device, it can be used to express anything and everything the author wants to express. Particularly for new and young readers, action can be a great hook, and an even better opportunity to discuss character motivation, the roots of conflict, both physical and emotional, and ultimately, conflict resolution. The important thing is to ask these questions about the action scenes we read, rather than dismissing or decrying them as nothing more than popcorn entertainment.

Published January 26th, 2021 by Katherine Tegen Books

About the Book: A moving and triumphant middle grade contemporary debut from award-winning author Matt Wallace about a heroic young girl—who dreams of becoming a pro wrestler—learning to find courage and fight for what she loves.

MJ knows what it means to hurt. Bruises from gymnastics heal, but big hurts—like her dad not being around anymore—don’t go away. Now her mom needs to work two jobs, and MJ doesn’t have friends at school to lean on.

There is only one thing MJ loves: the world of professional wrestling. She especially idolizes the luchadores and the stories they tell in the ring. When a chance encounter with her neighbor Mr. Arellano reveals that he runs a wrestling school, MJ has a new mission in life: join the school, train hard, become a wrestler. Once MJ starts training at Victory Academy, she feels like the hurts in her life are beginning to heal.

But trouble lies ahead. After wrestling in a showcase event, MJ attracts the attention of Mr. Arellano’s enemy at the State Athletic Commission. There are threats to shut the school down, putting MJ’s new home—and the community that welcomed her—at risk. What can MJ do to save her new family?

Praise for Bump: 

“Matt Wallace makes every pro-wrestling fan’s dream come true in Bump. Not only does he know his way around a wrestling ring—he’ll have you booing at the heels and cheering for the faces, just like you would ringside—but he knows how to tell a story. Middle-school gymnast turned wrestler MJ isn’t just trying to find herself, but the courage to be herself, in a world where cliques, cruelty, unfairness, and grief beat you down. But Bump teaches you that, in life and Lucha, there’s always a surprise move that can save you from defeat and pin your opponent—and your fears—down.”    (Carlos Hernandez, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of the Sal and Gabi series)

“This book did a pile drive on my heart. I was so quickly captivated by MJ as she navigated grief and excitement, fear and joy.” (Mark Oshiro, author of Anger Is a Gift and Each of Us a Desert)

“My favorite books have two things: A world I’ve never seen before and a great character to experience it with. Bump delivers both in a heartfelt, powerful way. I loved stepping into the world of small-time professional wrestling with M.J. I winced every time she took a hit inside the ring and out, and I cheered every time she got up. What a great middle-grade debut. I truly cannot wait to see what Matt Wallace does next.”  (Greg van Eekhout, author of Voyage of the Dogs and Cog)

“I love kids with big dreams, and MJ is a heroine to root for. Bump introduces readers to the world of professional wrestling while also telling a story about grief, friends that become family, and finding your voice. An entertaining and heartwarming read!” (Janae Marks, author of From the Desk of Zoe Washington)

About the Author: Matt Wallaceis the Hugo–winning author of Rencor: Life in Grudge City, the Sin du Jour series, and Savage Legion. He’s also penned over one hundred short stories in addition to writing for film and television. In his youth he traveled the world as a professional wrestler, unarmed combat, and self-defense instructor before retiring to write full-time. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Nikki. You can visit him at www.mattwallace.com.

Thank you, Matt, for this post about the importance of action sequences even in heartfelt books!

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