Blog Tour, Author Guest Post, and Review!: The Classy Crooks Club by Alison Cherry

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The Classy Crooks Club
Author: Alison Cherry
Published March 29th, 2016 by Aladdin

Goodreads Summary: Twelve-year-old AJ dreads spending an entire month living with her strict Grandma Jo. Not only does her grandmother dictate how she walks, what she eats, and which rooms she can enter, she fills all AJ’s free time with boring sewing lessons. Grandma Jo wants nothing more than to transform her adventurous, fun-loving granddaughter into a prim and proper lady.

But AJ’s dull summer takes a sharp turn when she discovers that her grandmother’s “bridge group” is actually a heist club. When Grandma Jo offers to let AJ learn lock-picking instead of embroidery in exchange for help with a few capers, AJ is happy to join her grandmother’s madcap band of thieves, who claim to steal only for ethical reasons. But even the most respectable ladies can hide truly surprising secrets, and AJ finds she must decide for herself what it means to be one of the good guys.

My Review: I love AJ. She is a perfect protagonist because she is just a real middle schooler. She is multi-faceted, funny, has quite a personality, has fears, makes mistakes, and is overall likeable. And she is not the only well-crafted character. Each of the characters, main, secondary, or supporting, are so fully developed that you feel like you know everyone in AJ’s life. I often am skeptical about first person POV because it is always tough to get a character/narrator’s voice perfect while also developing the characters, but Cherry does a great job of both. AJ is a normal middle school girl that is dealing with a quite terrible grandmother who happens to have an unexpected hobby.

Another thing that blew me away about this novel is that something happened that was completely unexpected! Usually when I am reading middle grade novels, I love them but am not often surprised because I can sense foreshadowing and predict; however, Cherry really caught me off guard in this one! You’ll have to let me know if you see it coming!

And finally, I loved the unique premise of the book! Who ever thought there’d be a book about a bunch of old ladies who “liberate” *cough* steal *cough* exotic birds and anything else that suits their fancy?!

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Alison’s guest post, below, made me really think about how grandparents play the role in different books, so Classy Crooks Club and the books listed below could be part of a grandparent-focused lit circle. How do the grandparents in the book differ from the parents (if they are present)? How are the grandparents different than stereotypical grandparents? How do the grandparents influence the main character?

Discussion Questions: Did you predict the climax of the story?; Why do you think the author chose first person point of view?; Why do you think the author doesn’t share what us about Betty’s past?; How does AJ overcome her fear?; Which of the Classy Crooks Club ladies would you want to hang out with and why?; What does Brianna teach AJ about not judging a book by its cover?; Why do you think Brianna is so mean to Maddie?; Why does Maddie get so mad at AJ? Would you have reacted the same way?

We Flagged: “Every single piece of furniture in my grandmother’s house has a name with too many syllables.

At home we have chairs. We have a couch. We have tables. But right now my grandmother is pointing at this hulking wooden thing in the corner of one of her guest bedrooms — my bedroom, for the next month — and calling it a ‘mission chifforobe.’ It looks like what might happen if a dresser and a closet had a really ugly baby. ‘I trust you’ll be very careful with this chiffrobe while you’re here,’ Grandma Jo says, like it’s some fragile, spindly thing I could possibly break by accident. ‘It was once owned by Buckminster Fuller, as was that ottoman.'” (p. 1)

Read This If You Loved: Wig in the WindowTiara on the Terrace by Kristen KittscherHeist Society by Ally Carter, Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

“Five Books I Loved That Featured Grandparents” by Alison Cherry: 

The Witches, Roald Dahl:

This creepy novel from 1983 features a boy who is sent to live with his grandmother after the death of his parents. Grandmother is a retired witch-hunter, and she makes sure her grandson knows how to recognize witches by their unusual traits: bald heads that they cover with wigs, square feet with no toes, clawed hands, and blue spit. Unfortunately, this doesn’t prevent the boy from having a run-in with witches while on vacation, and they turn him into a mouse. Grandmother is presented as incredibly kind and accepting—she doesn’t love her grandson any less once he’s a mouse. She’s also very clever and helps devise a plan to get revenge on the witches. The scene that sticks with me most is one in which Grandmother tells the boy that being a mouse will significantly shorten his lifespan, and he says he doesn’t mind because he doesn’t want to outlive her. I read this book over and over as a child!

Tortilla Sun, Jennifer Cervantes:

When her mother gets a grant to study in Costa Rica for the summer, twelve-year-old Izzy is sent to live with her nana in her tiny, rural New Mexican village. Izzy knows nothing about her Latina heritage or her dead father, whom her mother has always refused to discuss, and her summer with Nana is her first opportunity to learn where she comes from and who she is. Izzy’s nana is patient, wise, warm, and loving, and she lets her granddaughter discover pieces of her past slowly, when she’s ready and able to handle them. Reading this book is a rich sensory experience; the descriptions of Nana’s colorful house, the food she teaches Izzy to cook, and the rest of the characters in the neighborhood are beautifully drawn. It made me want to hang out in the world of the story long after it was over.

You’re Invited, Jen Malone and Gail Nall

This novel from four points of view is about a group of girls who start a party-planning business in their small seaside town. While the book isn’t centered around a grandparent like the other four on this list, Lauren’s grandmother Bubby is my favorite part of the story. Bubby is loud, opinionated, bubbly, and a total flirt—she spends most of the book zooming around on her bright red scooter, Wanda, and trying to catch the eye of “hot” Mr. Vernon from her retirement community. Despite her advanced age, Bubby tries her best to act and speak like a teenager—she’s active on “the Tweeter” and constantly refers to things as “amazeballs” and “ubercute.” This horrifies Lauren, who is significantly more dignified, but it delights me to no end. I sincerely wish I had a grandmother like Bubby.

The Lightning Queen, Laura Resau:

This gorgeous novel is about Teo, an indigenous Mexican boy, and Esma, a Romani girl who comes through his village with her caravan each summer. Despite their differences, a fortune teller states that they are destined to be friends for life, however unlikely it may seem. Because the story is told primarily in flashbacks, the reader gets to meet Teo as both a child and as an elderly healer who has lost touch with his lifelong friend and needs his grandson’s help to find her again. Teo is a delight in both incarnations—he’s kind and gentle and incredibly smart, the only boy in his village who braves school and learns to read. Teo also has a soft spot for rescuing animals—as a child, his constant companions are a duck, a blind goat, and a three-legged skunk. Both the Mixteco and Romani communities are treated with great sensitivity, and the writing is captivating.

The Secret Hum of a Daisy, Tracy Holczer:

When her mother dies suddenly, Grace is forced to move in with her estranged grandmother, who sent Grace’s mother away when she got pregnant as a teenager. Grace automatically assumes her grandmother is a horrible person and sets out to be a complete brat, hoping she’ll be sent away. Grace’s grandmother isn’t warm, but she’s patient and steady and gives Grace the space she needs to work out her grief; she’s there every time Grace needs her, but she doesn’t try to force her into a relationship before she’s ready. Grace eventually begins to respect her grandmother’s honesty, forthrightness, and willingness to take responsibility for mistakes she made in the past, even when it makes her look bad. The writing in this book is beautiful, lyrical, and deeply felt—it feels as if Tracy Holczer dug this story up from deep in her soul and pasted it directly onto the page. It’s one of my favorite depictions of two people who have suffered deep losses taking a chance on loving each other, even though it’s hard and painful.

Recommended For: 

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Don’t miss out on the other blog tour stops!

March 28-29: Pop! Goes the Reader (http://www.popgoesthereader.com/)
March 30: The Hiding Spot (http://thehidingspot.blogspot.com/)
March 31: Mundie Kids (http://mundiekids.blogspot.com/)
April 1: Unleashing Readers
April 4: Kidsmomo (http://www.kidsmomo.com/)
April 5: KidLit Frenzy (http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com/)
April 6: Kidliterati (http://www.kidliterati.com/)

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**Thank you to Alison for providing a copy for review and the guest post!**

A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake by Robin Newman, Illustrated by Deborah Zemke

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A Wilcox and Griswold Mystery: The Case of the Missing Carrot Cake
Author: Robin Newman
Illustrator: Deborah Zemke
Published May 12th, 2015 by Creston Books

Goodreads Summary: When food goes missing on Ed’s farm, Detectives Wilcox and Griswold do what it takes to track down the thieves. In this case, Miss Rabbit’s carrot cake has disappeared. Has it been stolen? Or eaten? Or both? Who dunnit?

“Readers ready for chapter books will solve the crime and then be surprised by the twist at the end. Here’s hoping for more hard-boiled detecting from Wilcox and Griswold!”
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

My Review: This book starts with a letter to the reader about the two detectives who will be leading the case, and I automatically thought of Dragnet as soon as I read it, and that was the voice I heard all the way through the book which made it even more fun to read! I love how this book was crafted: set up like a police file with times of interviews, suspects, and clues throughout. The detectives are also quite humorous and the ending is just surprising enough though some students may be able to predict it if they follow the clues. 

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: The Case of the Missing Carrot is a perfect read aloud to practice inferring and prediction as students try to figure out what is going on at the farm. Students can keep track of clues and characters (suspects), and the book also gives opportunities to discuss sequence, vocabulary, dialogue, point of view, and voice. The text is just so much fun to read, but can also be a great discussion starter/exemplar for so many language arts topics.

Discussion Questions: (Thoughout the book) What clues did this section give us? Who is a new suspect? Who is no longer a suspect? How has your prediction changed? What is your prediction now?

We Flagged: 

case of the missing carrot illustration

“Captain, stop the car!” I shouted. “There’s something up ahead. It’s orange.”

The captain grabbed his magnifying glass and tweezers. He picked up the object.

“A carrot!” I said.

I ran back to the squad car to get the crime scene photos.

“This carrot matches the ones we found in Miss Rabbit’s kitchen. We’re onto something.”

The captain twitched his tail furiously. (p. 19)

Read This If You Loved: Francine Poulet Meets the Ghost Raccoon by Kate DiCamilloThe Troublemaker by Lauren Castillo, Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo, Lulu series by Judith Viorst

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*Thank you to Creston Books for providing copies for review!**

Blog Tour with Review, Author Guest Post, and Giveaway!: The Vanishing Island by Barry Wolverton

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The Chronicles of the Black Tulip: The Vanishing Island
Author: Barry Wolverton
Published September 1st, 2015 by Walden Pond Press

Goodreads Summary: Does the Vanishing Island really exist? And if so, what treasure—or terrible secret—was hidden by its disappearance?

It’s 1599, the Age of Discovery in Europe. But for Bren Owen, growing up in the small town of Map on the coast of Britannia has meant anything but adventure. Enticed by the tales sailors have brought through Map’s port, and inspired by the arcane maps his father creates as a cartographer for the cruel and charismatic map mogul named Rand McNally, Bren is convinced that fame and fortune await him elsewhere. That is, until his repeated attempts to run away land him a punishment worse than death—cleaning up the town vomitorium.

It is there that Bren meets a dying sailor, who gives him a strange gift that hides a hidden message. Cracking the code could lead Bren to a fabled lost treasure that could change his life forever, and that of his widowed father. But to get there he will have to tie his fate to a mysterious Dutch admiral obsessed with a Chinese legend about an island that long ago disappeared from any map.

Before long, Bren is in greater danger than he ever imagined, and will need the help of an unusual friend named Mouse to survive. Barry Wolverton’s thrilling adventure spans oceans and cultures, brings together the folklore of East and West, and proves that fortune is always a double-edged sword.

My Review: Whoa! Quite a book! Part swashbuckling adventure, part historical fiction, part folklore, part fantasy, part ghost story, Barry Wolverton has given us quite an intense adventure. I couldn’t predict anything that happened in the book. There were twists and turns throughout, and I never knew who to trust (though I am happy to say my favorite sailor was trustworthy). There were some really gruesome parts (blood and guts and vomit) and there were some really beautiful fairy tales. Overall, quite an adventure! (Though I warn: by gruesome, I mean gruesome!)

Discussion Questions: How did the author use folklore throughout the story to move along the plot?; What parts of history that were shared within the book were true? Fictional?; Throughout the book, stop and try to predict what you think is going to happen next then check your predictions as you read more.; As you read, make a list of all of the seafaring vocabulary that is used within The Vanishing Islands then illustrate each of the vocabulary words as they are used in the book.; Wolverton used Marco Polo’s written works throughout the book–what allusions to Polo’s text can you find in The Vanishing Island?

We Flagged: “The summer began with the grim warning that the wolves were running again. In Britannia, this was code. It meant that Her Majesty’s navy was in need of fresh bodies to replace all of the seamen lost during the year to disease, desertion, or battle. Crimping, they called it. Men and older boys kidnapped and forced to enlist, of the good of God, queen, and country. Britannia, after all, was just one of many nations fighting for nothing less than to control the world.

One boy who didn’t have to worry about being crimped was Bren Owens of Map, the dirtiest, noisiest, smelliest city in all of Britannia. (He had heard rotten things about London, too, but he’d never been there.) Bren was what they called spindly–tall for his age, but unsteady, like a chair you might be afraid to sit on. He had been born in Map because he’d had no choice in the matter.

But that didn’t mean he had to stay here. And now, too skinny for the wolves, he had been forced to take matters into his own hands.” (p. 9-10)

Author Guest Post: 

“Be Careful What You Read, or Why Books Are Dangerous” by Barry Wolverton

Beginning in 1978, when Metrocenter mall opened near my home in Jackson, Miss., my family would go to the mall every Friday night. We would have dinner at one of the fine mall establishments, and then my mother would go clothes shopping, my brother would go nerd out at Radio Shack or Spencer’s, my father would go sit somewhere and smoke (you could do that then), and I would plop myself down in an aisle at Waldenbooks. I remember exactly how it felt to have that to look forward to, which is why Black’s Antique Books and Collectibles is Bren’s home away from home in The Vanishing Island. (Although the way I describe Black’s is more like I remembered Shakespeare and Co. in Paris, the ur-bookstore.)

But for a curious, receptive mind, books can do mischievous things. As I describe it in the book, “the bookstore was a blessing and a curse for [Bren]. Every few weeks seemed to bring in new adventure books, travelogues, and epic poems of war and conquest that were so popular these days. Tales from other lands and other times. For Bren, they offered proof that all things exotic and exciting lay anywhere but here.”

Books give Bren ideas. Ideas about places he’d rather be, things he’d rather be doing, possibilities that his current life doesn’t offer. Books also give him information. For instance, information about ships and the routines of their crew, so that an enterprising young man might figure out the best time to sneak aboard a ship and the best places to hide.

And it was undoubtedly in Black’s that Bren first found a copy of Travels by Marco Polo, the book that National Geographic described as “the founding adventure book of the modern world. Polo gave to the age of exploration that followed the marvels of the East, the strange customs, the fabulous riches, the tribes with gold teeth. It was a Book of Dreams, an incentive, a goad. Out of it came Columbus (whose own copy of the book was heavily annotated), Magellan, Vasco da Gama, and the rest of modern history.”

Wow, some book. Especially considering how much of it is considered dubious. Polo dictated his stories to a fiction writer named Rustichello while both were in prison during the Venice-Genoa war, and between Polo’s possible exaggerations and Rustichello’s flare for embellishment, we can be pretty sure Marco Polo didn’t really see a unicorn. (He may have seen a Sumatran rhino, though, which is still magical.)

Given all that, I hope you’ll appreciate why the Polo legend figures prominently in The Vanishing Island, without making light of the terrible cost of exploration and colonialism.

About the Author: Barry Wolverton is the author of Neversink. He has more than fifteen years’ experience creating books, documentary television scripts, and website content for international networks and publishers, including National Geographic, Scholastic.com, the Library of Congress, and the Discovery Networks. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee. You can visit him online at www.barrywolverton.com.

Barry Wolverton Author Photo

Read This If You Loved: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, Emerald Atlas by John Stephens, The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson

Recommended For: 

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Make sure to visit other stops on The Vanishing Island blog tour!
Tour information: http://www.walden.com/8039-2/

6/15/2015 Blue Stocking Thinking                  bluestockingthinking.blogspot.com
6/16/2015 The Haunting of Orchid Forsythia    hauntedorchid.blogspot.com
6/17/2015 Small Review                               smallreview.blogspot.com
6/18/2015 Maria’s Melange                         www.mariaselke.com/
6/19/2015 Unleashing Readers                    unleashingreaders.com
6/19/2015 The Hiding Spot                             ​thehidingspot.blogspot.com
6/22/2015 This Kid Reviews Books              thiskidreviewsbooks.com
6/23/2015 Mundie Kids                                mundiekids.blogspot.com/
6/24/2015 Paige in Training                        pageintraining.wordpress.com
6/25/2015 Novel Novice                              novelnovice.com

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**Thank you to Walden Pond Press for having us be part of the blog tour
and for providing copies for review and giveaway!**

Links for Barry Wolverton: 

Website: http://www.barrywolverton.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/wolvertonhill
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bwolverton
Instagram: https://instagram.com/wolvertonhill/

Links for Walden Pond Press:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/WaldenPondPress
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WaldenPondPress
Website/Blog: http://www.walden.com/books/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/waldenpondpress/

Blog Tour with Review and Giveaway!: The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

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The Disappearance of Emily H.
Author: Barrie Summy
Published May 12th, 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Goodreads Summary: A girl who can see the past tries to save the future in this compelling tween mystery.

A girl is missing. Three girls are lying. One girl can get to the truth.

Emily Huvar vanished without a trace. And the clues are right beneath Raine’s fingertips. Literally. Raine isn’t like other eighth graders. One touch of a glittering sparkle that only Raine can see, and she’s swept into a memory from the past. If she touches enough sparkles, she can piece together what happened to Emily.

When Raine realizes that the cliquey group of girls making her life miserable know more than they’re letting on about Emily’s disappearance, she has to do something. She’ll use her supernatural gift for good . . . to fight evil.

But is it too late to save Emily?

About the Author: Barrie Summy is the author of the I So Don’t Do mystery series starring thirteen-year-old detective Sherry Holmes Baldwin and the recently released The Disappearance of Emily H. Barrie lives in Southern California with her husband, their four children, two dogs, a veiled chameleon, and a fish. There was once a dwarf hamster, but let’s not go there. Visit her online atbarriesummy.com. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Barrie.Cox.Summy

My Review: Raine has moved from town to town throughout her life as her mother tries to find the man of her dreams; however, her mom promises that this last move is finally where they are going to settle. When Raine starts school though, she finds that this may not be where she wants to stay. On top of all of this, she has moved into a missing girl’s home which throws her in the center of Emily H’s disappearance. When Raine finds herself investigating Emily, she ends up in the middle of more than she bargained form.

I often find myself struggling with magical realism books because I can’t grasp the magic that the author is trying to throw in the real world. With this book, however, I really liked the magical twist that was put on this mystery book. Raine has the ability to grab memories. She sees sparkles that show her where the memories lie, and she is transported into the memory. I really liked this addition because it reminded me a little bit of Medium the TV show–just some more clues in a mystery.

Overall a book that I read in one sitting and had twists and turns that made me want to keep reading, and the mystery itself had a satisfying ending.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book will find its most success in a middle school classroom or school library. It is one of those books that one student is going to read and is going to make his/her friend read so they can talk about it.

In a classroom, I, personally, would use this book to talk about bullying and best choices. Sections of the book could be pulled out that will definitely start conversations.

Discussion Questions: Do you think Raine made the right choice when she discovered the secret?; Do you think Raine made the right choice when dealing with Jennifer?; Why do you think Jennifer is so mean?; What caused ____ to make the choice s/he did?; Do you believe that Raine’s mother can change?

We Flagged: “I reach into my front pocket for the small, scratched-up silver heart with a dent in the side where I once dropped it on the sidewalk. I balance the heart in my palm and watch as tiny sparkles dance across it, sparkles only I can see.

I need a memory from my first day of kindergarten. A shot of courage for facing Yielding Middle and all the yuck that goes along with being the new girl.

I close my hand to trap the sparkles, then shut my eyes, drifting into the memory.” (p. 2)

Read This If You Loved: The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney, A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd

Recommended For:

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Don’t miss out on the other stops of the blog tour!

Thursday, June 4
Ms. Yingling Reads
Fri, June 5
proseandkahn
Mon, June 8
Once Upon a Story
Tues, June 9
Read Now, Sleep Later
Wed, June 10
Sharpread
Thurs, June 11
Unleashing Readers
Fri, June 12
Small Review

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**Thank you to Barbara at Blue Slip Media for having us be part of the blog tour
and for providing copies of the text for review and giveaway!**

Find Blue Slip Media on Facebook
On Twitter: @barbfisch   @blueslipper
Visit their website

Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett

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Sam & Dave Dig a Hole
Author: Mac Barnett
Illustrator: Jon Klassen
Published October 14th, 2014 by Candlewick Press

Publisher’s Summary: Sam and Dave are on a mission. A mission to find something spectacular. So they dig a hole. And they keep digging. And they find . . . nothing. Yet the day turns out to be pretty spectacular after all. Attentive readers will be rewarded with a rare treasure  n this witty story of looking for the extraordinary — and finding it in a manner you’d never expect.

About the Creators: Mac Barnett is the author of several award-winning books for children, including President Taft Is Stuck in the Bathillustrated by Chris Van Dusen, and Extra Yarn, illustrated by Jon Klassen, which won a Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and a Caldecott Honor. Mac Barnett lives in California.

Jon Klassen is the author-illustrator of I Want My Hat Back, a Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor book, and This Is Not My Hat, winner of the Caldecott Medal. He is also the illustrator of House Held Up by Trees, written by Ted Kooser, which was named a New York Times Book Review Best Illustrated Children’s Book, and Extra Yarn, written by Mac Barnett, which won a Caldecott Honor. Originally from Niagara Falls, Ontario, Jon Klassen now lives in Los Angeles.

My Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I just love the work that Mac and Jon do. I don’t think I have read any of their books that I haven’t enjoyed and haven’t found myself wanting to talk about. What I love most about their books is that they are unique and so, so, so smart. Their books are like no other, and this book is no different. It has nuances you have to carefully look for, it has an ending that you can debate about for a very long time, and overall is just so well done. I think this, along with the Hat books, may be the best open-ended picture books out there. Just like wordless books, open-ended books truly invokes conversing. When I finished, I immediately asked my husband to read it, so we could discuss the ending. Travis Jonker has a great post about the different theories about the ending, but I warn you: there are spoilers in the post! Think of all the great conversations or writing your students will have/do because of this thought-provoking picture book.

For some laughs, also check out Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen Make a Book: A Transcript.

Discussion Questions: What do you think happened at the end?; What do you notice about the dog as you are reading the book?; How is the ending different from the beginning?

Book Trailer: 

Read This If You Loved: I Want My Hat Back and This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to Laura at Candlewick for providing a copy for review**

Coyote Summer by J.S. Kapchinske

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Coyote Summer
Author: J.S. Kapchinske
Published March 17, 2013 by Moon Halo Books

Goodreads Summary: Heath always looked forward to summer visits at Grandpa’s—long days in the wild Rocky Mountains, fishing with Dad on the Piedra River, and nights sleeping on the screened-in porch. Plus this summer, Dad promised to finally tell him the secret about old Mrs. Baylis—a mysterious Native American woman living down the dusty dirt road… But now, after Dad’s accident, it can never happen that way. Heath and his mother go to Grandpa’s, but only to spread Dad’s ashes in the river. 

In the beginning, Heath feels like he’s been swallowed by the raging Piedra, held upside down in some dark and unforgiving eddy. But one day, wandering along the riverbank, he meets Annie, a wild-eyed tomboy who shows him a hidden cave with a litter of orphaned coyote pups. Together they discover the cave holds another secret—one that might help them figure out the mystery of old Mrs. Baylis. During that summer in the mountains, Heath comes to realize there is both beauty and ugliness in the world, sometimes all tangled together. By opening himself up to Annie and the coyotes, he rediscovers hope and joy in this big, beautiful, mixed-up world.

My Review: You have never heard of this book have you? That makes me so sad. How do such wonderful books fly under so many people’s radars? This is a special book that should be in the hands of middle schoolers everywhere! Heath is a character that so many kids will connect with, and his journey would definitely touch them like it did me.

Heath recently lost his father senselessly when he was hit by a drunk driver. The sudden loss of a man that Heath looked up to affects him tremendously, and he is struggling to find himself. Everything he does at his Grandpa’s house reminds him of his dad, and his mom and Grandpa are dealing with the death in a way that makes Heath feel alone.  But during this summer, his coyote summer, he finds his own identity, makes an everlasting friend, and begins to figure out how to deal without his dad. And there are other subplots that run throughout he book that just add to the depth of the narrative such as Annie’s story and the story of Mrs. Baylis.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book just needs to be shared. It could definitely be read as a read aloud, but it will probably find its home the best in the right students’ hands either through the classroom library or lit circles. Students who love nature, have suffered a loss, or enjoy identity books will find this one is perfect for them.

Discussion Questions: How does finding Annie and the coyotes change Heath’s summer?; Why is Grandpa acting the way he is?; Why was it important for Heath to spend the summer with the coyotes? How did it affect him?

We Flagged: “As we sat there, a heron swooped down on the far bank and began stalking the shallows for fish. He moved slowly and hardly made a ripple when he walked. Then he stretched his long neck over the water, cocked his head, and froze.

“He’s pretty,” the girl said under her breath, as if talking to herself.

Somehow, her saying that made me feel better. “Herons were my dad’s favorite. He told me we should all learn to be patient like one of them.”

“Your dad sounds nice.”

I looked down at my hands and felt that horrible lump in my throat.” (Location 196, Kindle book)

Read This If You Loved: Hoot, Flush, Chomp, or Scat by Carl Hiassen, Lost in the River of Grass by Ginny Rorby, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George, Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Recommended For:

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**Thank you to the author for providing a copy for review**

Just Call My Name by Holly Goldberg Sloan

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Just Call My Name

Just Call My Name
Author: Holly Goldberg Sloan
Published: August 5, 2014 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Summary: The happily-ever-after of Holly Goldberg Sloan’s acclaimed debut, I’ll Be There, is turned on its head in this riveting, emotional sequel about friends, enemies, and how those roles can shift in a matter of moments.

Emily Bell has it all. She’s in love with a boy named Sam Border, and his little brother has become part of her family. This summer is destined to be the best time of their lives–until a charismatic new girl in town sets her sights on Sam. Now Emily finds herself questioning the loyalty of the person she thought she could trust most.

But the biggest threat to her happiness is someone she never saw coming. Sam’s criminally insane father, whom everyone thought they’d finally left behind, is planning a jailbreak. And he knows exactly where to find Emily and his sons when he escapes…and takes his revenge.

Review: Holly Goldberg Sloan is an incredible writer. I enjoyed the first book in the series, but I liked this one even more. I appreciate the great depth of her characters. Often, coincidences are categorized as poor writing, but Sloan uses them intentionally and in a clever way—defying literary assumptions about quality writing. The book is quite suspenseful, and readers will have the urge to race through it to learn how the plot unravels. The way Sloan builds the plot details is very thoughtful and meticulous, and I found myself constantly reflecting about how intelligent she is. This sequel is well worth the read. It is a difficult one to put down! It reads like a very literary mystery and would be a great text for teachers to have in their classrooms. One aspect that I love about this series is it turns our concept of family on its head; it will teach readers about the power of a strong family unit—traditional or not.

Teacher’s Tools for Navigation: This would be a fantastic resource for teachers teaching plot, suspense, and foreshadowing. The way Sloan builds the events and details is admirable, and students would learn a lot from her design. While it is a sequel, I think this book could certainly stand alone. The ominous mood made my heart race! Check out more curricular connections here: Curricular Connections.

Discussion Questions: How does Sloan thoughtfully use coincidence to build her story?; What is Destiny’s role in the novel? How does Sam perceive her? Is he right? What does this tell us about Sam? Why does the author name her, “Destiny”?; How do the shifts in point-of-view add to your reading of the text?

We Flagged: “That happens to really happy people. They don’t notice the little things” (p.81).

Read This If You Loved: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan, We Were Liars by e. lockhart, YA Suspense/Mystery

Recommended For:

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RickiSig