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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: book review, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 2,779
1. Book Review: To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson

Title: To Catch a Cheat
Author: Varian Johnson
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: After the shenanigans of The Great Greene Heist, Jackson is trying to keep his nose clean. Really! He is!  But he's framed for a cheating con, and the principal is all too eager to take the excuse to strike him down. Complicating matters are a fight with his best friend, and his attempts to kiss his sort-of girlfriend for the first time. (Yikes!) Still, Jackson's got to clear this up. What can a reformed con artist do, but con his way to the center of this mystery?

First Impressions: A fun romp, although I got lost more than a few times with all the characters. And I definitely spent some time wanting to knock Jackson and Charlie's heads together.

Later On: The things I liked (and the things I didn't) about the first one carried over into this book. I still loved the casual diversity (Jackson is black, Charlie and Gabi are Latinx, they have friends of other ethnicities as well) and the fine ear for the complexities of middle-school life. The con stuff got really, really involved, especially when the story juggled multiple characters of dubious intentions. Still, I think that this could become an entertaining MG series.

I was never entirely clear on why Charlie and Jackson were at odds, although I could see how it
played out. Charlie's been in Jackson's shadow a lot, and Jackson is just clever enough to be arrogant about it, and that arrogance would grate.

More: Kirkus
Book Nut

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2. Book Review: Shade Me by Jennifer Brown

Title: Shade Me
Author: Jennifer Brown
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: When the popular girl is murdered, Nikki feels strangely drawn toward the case, even getting entangled with the girl's sexy older brother.

First Impressions: Meh. I know she's supposed to be Tough and Independent but she was awfully cagey with the cop for no reason. And the book treated synaesthesia like a superpower or something. Just weird and unsatisfying.

Later On: Generally I really like Jennifer Brown's stories. She focuses tightly on characters and character development, and how relationships grow and change, especially under the pressure of horrible situations.

This shift to a more plot-heavy mystery didn't work at all for me, especially since the things that were so strong in her other stories suffered for Plot Reasons. We never meet the murdered girl, but somehow Nikki felt a connection, even though her assessment of the murdered girl before she was murdered was decidedly negative. There was a romantic subplot and I know I was supposed to feel a connection to it and to the romantic lead (whose name I can't even remember), but I really didn't.

I know it's fashionable, especially in noir stories, to mistrust the police, but I couldn't figure out any earthly reason for her not to bring the cop in on her suspicions, even partially. He wasn't actively undermining her, gaslighting her, or at any time seemed to be one of the bad guys. In fact, he kept coming around to say, "Look, can I help? I'm doing this; this is my actual job and I'm really trying to do it here. I have information, do you have information?" And she would say no because . . . suspense?! It was unsatisfying.

Finally, my issue with the use of Nikki's synesthesia. Brown did acknowledge it as something that has given Nikki learning difficulties, but it also functioned as a magical signpost to Things That Were Important to the mystery, and a connection to the murdered girl, who (minor spoiler) had synesthesia herself.   But my understanding, which because I'm not a neuroscientist is not exactly thorough, is that synesthesia works differently for different people. How could the dead girl possibly have known what would jump out at Nikki and what wouldn't? Just a little too convenient.

I'll read Brown's next book, but only if it's not a noir mystery.

More: Kirkus Reviews
Disability in Kidlit on repackaging disabilities as superpowers, which is not always a bad thing, but annoyed me in this book

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3. Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan

Title: Harmony, USA
Author:  Lewis Bryan 
Publisher: BookLogix
Publication date: April 22, 2015
Stars: 4

Summary: Harmony, USA, the quintessential, idyllic small town, is full of beauty and simplicity. But behind the scenes of this neatly kept town lies a killer, and once you begin to peel back the layers, Harmony has secrets upon secrets. 
Everything you convinced yourself is good and pure about small-town life is challenged. One by one, the secrets of Harmony are revealed. You must decide what is right, as you believed it, and what is justice. 
Will those who have done evil ever pull themselves away from the darkness, or will their past consume them forever? 
Harmony lays in the balance.


Review: Harmony, USA by Lewis Bryan was an interesting book to say the least. You would not expect what happens in this little town. Bryan does a great job with the theory of small towns have their secrets. Harmony sure had plenty. Each page kept me intrigued to find out what happened. I myself am not a big fan of mysteries, I feel like you can pick out the killer in the first few pages. But Bryan’s mystery was one that was hard to break. He wrote it in a way that kept you interested yet you couldn’t name the killer. It took me till almost the end of the book to figure it out and I was still shocked at who it was. Although I did feel like focus of the book was not around the killer so much has around sexual assault. There was something that made me feel uncomfortable at times when every character had been sexually assaulted at some point or another. Regardless of that fact the book was extremely well wrote and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a fast yet good read. 

-Victoria

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4. The Breakfast Table Book Club

Today’s post is coming to you live from the breakfast table. We get many books to read and review and the really successful ones, the books that become favorites, are those that get the “The Breakfast Table Book Club” approval!

The Breakfast Table Book Club

This is how is works, I have stacks of books everywhere in this house. Often times there are a few books that have recently come in that just sit on the kitchen table. As the family wanders in for breakfast each morning, they’ll grab a book to read while eating their cereal. I always know a popular read when they ask where the book has gone once I move it to the review crates. “When is it coming back?” they ask.

Today I bring you two such titles that have tried to leave the breakfast table but have been a constant companion since they’ve arrived.

The first book is so appropriate for THIS year of all years because it’s an election year. 50 Things You Should Know About American Presidents published by the QEB publishing.

Breakfast table Book Club

Everything you should know about US presidents is broken down into 50 bite-sized chunks. Every president is covered, from the first person to take office George Washington, to our current US president, Barack Obama. Fascinating facts are included on each page, for example, did you know that Franklin D. Roosevelt is the longest serving president ? There are also details about the US political system, clearly stating the changes that have occurred from the 17th century until today.

50-Things-American-presidents1

This is a very colorful book and perfect for reluctant readers. I say this because reluctant readers love little snippets of information as opposed to chapter books. This book is well suited for ages 8 to 12. It has become a greatly loved edition on our breakfast table.

books about Presidents

Our second Breakfast Book Club selection is 50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather by QEB Publishing. Who doesn’t love wild weather. My children are obsessed with it so you can imagine that a fun book on the breakfast table about wild weather would be very welcomed.

books about weather

Rain or Shine- the weather impacts everything we do. Packed with facts, diagrams, infographics and photos, 50 Things You Should Know About Wild Weather takes you on a whirlwind of discovery. Covering the earth’s atmosphere and how weather works, you’ll find out all you need to know about weather fronts, heat waves, hurricanes, avalanches, ice storms, climate change and our favorite topic, tornados and much, much, more. Filled with facts, figures and world records for the wildest weather ever documented, you’ll also discover storm chasers and weather scientists who have tried their best to keep the weather in check. Be warned, it’s a stormy ride.

50-things-you-should-know-about-wild-weather-spread

Wild Weather is in full color and grabs the eye, drawing the reader in.

Both of these selections will have your children not only reading but reciting and retaining the fun facts they learn about weather and presidents. I’m so happy these books have found their way to our breakfast table.

Thank you to QED for offering us these fine books to review.We highly recommend them. They are perfect for any library public, home or school.

****Some of these links are affiliate links. That means if you click and buy, I may get a very small commission.
This money goes towards postage and supplies to keep books and ideas in the hands of young readers!

 

The post The Breakfast Table Book Club appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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5. 1001 Nights Doubleheader

I've had a busy few weeks at work, so I wasn't able to get any posts polished enough to go live. To make up for it(ish), I'm giving you a doubleheader today, where I review two books that are similar in some way and discuss what I think of those similarities and their differences.

Title: The Wrath and Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library

Summary: Khalid marries a young woman every evening and in the morning he kills her. Nobody can stop him because, well, he's the king.

After her best friend becomes his latest victim, Shahrzad decides that she's going to take him on, find out why all the murders are happening, and then kill him. It's a good plan, but it goes a little off track when she starts to fall in love with him.

First Impressions: The story was compelling but OH MY GOD. The prose. PURPLE.

Later On: I struggled with this book. I know a lot of people who've been swept away by it, but my brain kept inconveniently breaking in. Like, Khalid? Um, why are you doing all this killing? Shahrzad, honey, why aren't you pointing out that this is super-not-okay? I get that you're falling in lurve and all but kiddies, love is about communication. You know what you're not communicating? THAT HIM KILLING ALL HIS PREVIOUS WIVES WAS NOT OKAY. He victimized his country, he terrorized families, he gave no reason, and OH YES A WHOLE BUNCH OF GIRLS ARE DEAD. I was genuinely questioning why he hadn't been the hell overthrown by now. A lot of the girls he picked were from powerful families - why didn't some of them send in an assassin and STOP THIS NONSENSE?

When a book makes me this WTF, I generally stop reading. This one, I kept reading because I actually did want to find out his reasons. Shahrzad is smart and spunky and loving and loyal, and she's gonna Queen like nobody's damn business, so I was initially in it for her. And then, aside from the whole lots and lots of dead wives thing (which would seem to be a dealbreaker), Khalid was an appealing and warm-hearted guy who seems to be genuinely falling for Shahrzad. We do actually get a reason for all the wife-killing and it's not that Khalid is a serial killer who just can't help himself. But it fell flat for me. I never felt the actual threat of it.

And, yeah. The prose. It seemed like every line had to remind us that Khalid had flashing hazel eyes or that Shahrzad had the shiniest most beautimous hair in the palace, or something.

I know a lot of people loved it, but this one really wasn't for me.

More: Cuddlebuggery
Book Nut

Title: A Thousand Nights
Author: E.K. Johnston
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley

Summary: In this retelling of 1001 nights, the main character sacrifices herself to save her sister and marries a king who's murdered all his previous wives.

First Impressions: This was what I wanted The Wrath and the Dawn to be. The focus on women and the work/powers/community/ties of women was beautiful.

Later On: I still get a warm glow when I think of this book - of how important the relationships between women are. Sisters, mothers, aunts, female friends. There's a lovely little bit where the protagonist, who goes unnamed throughout the book, contemplates how her father's first wife, who is also her aunt, always functioned as another mother to her; a relationship that's not often portrayed this way.

This carries through to the palace. She begins to find out the history of the king's murders through talking to his mother and the palace craftswomen, gradually and patiently assembling the pieces into a whole that will let her save the country. Primarily, this is a story of a woman, backed by women, quietly, determinedly putting things right for a country that has gone terribly wrong.

Is it a swoony romance? No. The king is a man possessed by a demon, and there's no falling in love with this demon. At the end of the book, there's a hint that the man within might have started to catch feelings, but the love story here is the protagonist's love for her family, her community, and her country.

More: By Singing Light
Charlotte's Library
 

 Scheherazade and Shahryār by Ferdinand Keller, 1880, taken from Wikipedia

So now for the compare and contrast portion of our show.

It's always interesting to see how two authors take the same base story and make such different things out of it. Where the first book focused tightly on the developing romance between the king and his queen (with touches of a love triangle and another couple's love story as subplots), the second focused on the larger implications of the king's destructive rampage and how it can be repaired. Maybe I'm Old and Fuddy, but that spoke to me more than the intimate romance. Anytime you get royal characters, I'm almost always more interested in the pressure of the fate of an entire nation resting on their choices and actions.

So my reviews, and the reviews linked here, are basically about how these books worked for generally white or white-presenting American ladies. There's a trickier question: how do they work as representations or interpretations of a piece of classic non-Western literature?

In the original story (Britannica.com), the king is killing women because his first wife cheated on him. Obviously, this doesn't play all that well as a trait of a romantic hero. While the books took different tacks, both wisely altered the king's motivation.

I tried hard to find writing about these books from Middle Eastern reviewers, but was unsuccessful. The 1001 Nights is basically the story that we know from Middle Eastern mythology. It is a framing device for retelling many other stories, but only Scheherezade and Aladdin (which was one of the stories told in the 1001 Nights) have entered Western canon to the point where we know the stories off the top of our heads.

From my extremely limited perspective, I would say that both novels used the Middle Eastern setting as an exotic locale or a fantasy land. This isn't that different from a lot of historical novels or historical fantasy. Did they respect the cultures? That's a trickier one because there's a few things at work here. I'm not of the culture. I'm not even very familiar with the culture. And the Middle East is a huge area, made up of many, many individual countries and subcultures, each with their own history. The effect of the Middle-Easternish fantasy land is to back away from that complexity while still retaining the otherness of the setting as a whole.

But some of the major Western stereotypes of the Middle East as a whole were avoided. Although polygamous marriage was an element in A Thousand Nights, in both books, women were largely respected by their male friends, husbands, fathers, and brothers. War and violence is something else Westerners associate with the Middle East, but in these stories, there was purpose to them.

Like I said, I'm not the person to really examine this. If you have background and opinions that are better informed than mine, please let me know so I can add some links.

FURTHER further reading

Islamophobia in YA

Renee Ahdieh, author of The Wrath and the Dawn, briefly discusses the process of worldbuilding a Middle-Eastern infleunced fantasy world

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6. The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

2016, Random House

Tessa and Callie were nine years old when Lori was murdered, and it was these two that put the Ohio River Monster behind bars.  Everyone in Fayette, Pennsylvania was relieved this horrible chapter in their lives was over.

Almost ten years have passed and Tessa and Callie are completely different girls.  Callie's life was full of scholarships, friends and a stable family that has continued to live in Fayette despite their family loss.  Tessa, on the other hand, lost her father to the prison system, her sister to her fierce independence, and her mother to who knows where.  She moved to Florida to live with her grandmother and expects to attend university in the fall after working as a waitress to make it happen.

Then the phone call comes...

Tessa once more finds herself in Fayette, but under very different circumstances.  Her father is dying and her once best friend Callie won't talk to her (even though she's staying at her house at the insistence of Callie's mom).  When Tessa goes to the prison to see her father one last time, she is told he died but her sister was there.  Tessa, who hasn't seen her family in ten years, is frantic to find her sister, but the path to her is becoming more difficult than Tessa imagined.

But Fayette hasn't shaken the Ohio River Monster yet.  Everyone thought he was in prison for the rest of his life, but a new trial is slated once again, where new evidence is to be released.  More terrifying is the fact that another girl has been found murdered in the same style as the other victims.  Callie and Tessa are once again confronted with personal tragedy because the victim was a friend of theirs, someone who was in Callie's inner circle.  Coincidence or copycat?

Callie and Tessa decide it's time to confront the past and begin to find answers to the present.  When they begin to pursue this, they have no idea one of them may be the next victim....

Kara Thomas is not only a storyteller, she's a story weaver.  Although this is the main plot of the novel, there are other threads of mystery woven into the lives of the main characters that will catch the reader's attention.  There are no lull moments in this book.  When the unraveling begins, hang on, because it will be a fast and furious ride.  Recommended 9-12th grades


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7. Book Review- This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

Title: This Is Not A Love Story
Author: Keren David
Series:  N/A
Published:  7 May 2015 by Atom
Length: 352 pages
Source: library
Other info: Keren David has also written the When I Was Joe series (When I Was Joe, Almost True, and Another Life), Salvage, Lisa's Guide to Winning the Lottery, and Cuckoo. 
Summary : Kitty dreams of a beautiful life, but that's impossible in suburban London where her family is haunted by her father's unexpected death. So when her mum suggests moving to Amsterdam to try a new life, Kitty doesn't take much persuading. Will this be her opportunity to make her life picture perfect?
In Amsterdam she meets moody, unpredictable Ethan, and clever, troubled Theo. Two enigmatic boys, who each harbour their own secrets. In a beautiful city and far from home, Kitty finds herself falling in love for the first time.
But will love be everything she expected? And will anyone's heart survive?
Review: Kitty and Theo have recently moved to Amsterdam. Kitty's mother's boyfriend's son is Ethan. The three of them must deal with falling in love, keeping secrets from each other, and getting through life.
I wanted to read this because it kept getting flagged up in chats for featuring bisecusl boys, and I'd been meaning to read things by Keren for a long time. Keren reading short story from Ethan's viewpoint made me want to know more about him and therefore I started on this.
It did seem a bit wandering regarding Kitty and Ethan's story, to start with (probably because I'm generally less interested in people working out who they like until there's bigger conflicts involved). I did like seeing the development of Theo's relationship with Sophie, which is told partially by flashback partially in the present too. I also liked seeing all the relationship strands between Kitty, Theo and Ethan converge and how that all panned out. The building and breakdown of relationships in this book are tumultuous, but good to read about.
I really enjoyed reading about different cultures - Jewish and Dutch. I especially liked that Keren provided characters with different attitudes to aspects of their culture, offering a range of characters within such an under-represented group.
The side characters made a good group. My favourite was Rachel, Kitty's sister, who was funny, and a good support for Kitty.
There's a lot of things our main trio have to deal with. Family relationships, working out friendships, health issues, fitting in when moving abroad... A lot is happening here, and I quite liked seeing how Theo and Kitty fit in after the move.
Part one is the climatic event, part two is before, part three is after. I liked this structure, as it catches your attention immediately, and establishes characters.
I loved the ending. Kitty's discussion with her friends is good for reminding all of us of some lessons in life. Characters' justifications for the way they wanted things were realistic, especially Ethan's (last paragraphs of chapter 44) and while the strands unpacked within the novel are tied up, there's still an openendedness for the future.
Overall:  
Strength 4 tea to a story that is not about love, but is about relationships, romantic, familial, and friendshippy, and overall about life.


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8. Book Review - California, the Magic Island

California, the Magic Island, written and illustrated by Doug Hansen, is a book that every California teacher should have on his/her bookshelf. But what is it? Is it mythology? State history? Alphabet book? Actually, it's all of the above.

Here's the overview from the back cover.
Queen Calafia, the legendary heroine of a sixteenth-century Spanish romance about an island overflowing with gold, is incensed with she hears that a state has been named after her. Being the good queen that she is, she's willing to hear from twenty-six animals about why California is worthy of her regal name. Each animal describes an iconic cultural object or historical event, enchanting readers—and maybe even Calafia herself—with their tales of the magical place called California.
Hailing from western New York, I have visited the state on a number of occasions, but know very little about California history, so this was a very nice introduction.

The book opens with an introduction to Queen Calafia and Her Magic Island. As all good stories begin, this one starts with "Once upon a time (or maybe only yesterday) ..." Readers learn about the Queen and her island, her fury at the use of their island name, and her command to her warriors to let the animals speak for California as she decides the fate of the people. What follows are 26 stories, each told by a different animal, each about a different event, location, industry, animal, or some other important piece related to California history or present. After their stories, readers learn about the judgment that Queen Calafia has made.

Back matter in the text contains information about the origin of the Queen Califia legend, additional information about each of the animals and the stories they narrate, and a note about the artist and the content of the borders at the beginning of the book. The illustrations are brightly colored, gloriously vibrant images that are nothing short of magical. I spent almost as much time pouring over the illustrations as I did reading the text.

I loved the story of the monarch butterflies, and will use excerpts from this in my science teaching. Other connections to science include stories about the La Brea Tar Pits, Mount Palomar Observatory, and Yosemite.

Hansen looks broadly and inclusively at California history. The stories are short, providing just information to pique the interest of readers. I know that I closed the book wanting to know so much more. This is a beautiful book with a story inventively told.

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9. You Can Fly with the Weatherfords

When I was young and learned my father served in the Naval Air Corps during WWII, I became a voracious reader of anything and everything about the war, including the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, Jackie Robinson, Rosie the Riveter, the WACs, and more. What I didn't find were stories about the Tuskegee Airmen. My young self would have been as thrilled as I am today with the release of an amazing poetry collection entitled You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by Jeffery Boston Weatherford.

You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen is a collaboration between award-winning children’s book author Carole Boston Weatherford and her son, debut illustrator Jeffery Boston Weatherford. They have woven poems and scratchboard illustrations into a history in verse inspired as much by World War II newsreels as by modern day graphic novels. The project was nearly ten years in the making. With starred reviews in Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly, the book for middle grades is off to a flying start.

Here the mother-son/author-illustrator team interview each other.

Carole: When did you first hear about the Tuskegee Airmen?
Jeffery: I first heard about them when I was a young boy. We took family trips to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington and to Tuskegee Institute, Alabama where we toured exhibits about the Tuskegee University’s founder Booker T. Washington, botanist George Washington Carver and the Tuskegee Airmen. I always had dreams of flight.

Jeffery: Why did you want to write this book?
Carole: I first learned of the Tuskegee Airmen in a magazine article in the 1980s. I was so moved by their story that I saved the magazine. My literary mission is to mine the past for family stories, fading traditions and forgotten struggles. The Airmen’s saga is historically and politically significant. As a children’s literature professor, I knew of at least one historical fiction picture book and of several informational books about the Tuskegee Airmen. I felt that the story would lend itself well to a poetic treatment.

Carole: Tell us about your family’s military ties?
Jeffery: My great great great grandfather Isaac Copper fought in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War. He was one of 17 veterans who founded the town of Unionville on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. My mother’s father Joseph Boston Jr. served in World War II. He was a technical sergeant in the Army Corps of Engineers in New Guinea and the Philippines. My grandmother still has his uniform and medals.

Jeffery: Which poem was most challenging to write?
Carole: “Operation Prove Them Wrong” was by far the toughest to write. It was like plotting scenes for a war movie. I had to boil down Operation Corkscrew and Operation Diadem to a few lines that captured the battles. It might have been easier if I were gamer like you or at least a World War II buff.

Carole: You were a serious gamer growing up. Did your background as a gamer influence how you illustrated the battle scenes?  
Jeffery: Yes, absolutely. I had lots of residual visual references from battles across galaxies.

Jeffery: What is your favorite illustration from the book?
Carole: I like the one opposite the poem “Routines.” It shows a dogfight in which one plane gets bombed and explodes. The explosion is quite animated, like something out of a comic book. I almost want to add an action bubble: Boom!

Carole: Describe your creative process.
Jeffery: For inspiration, I viewed documentary photographs from the Library of Congress and National Archives collections. While researching picture references, I had some dreams of meeting Tuskegee Airmen. I also watched the movie Red Tails. For each illustration, I drew a graphite study to layout the composition. Once that was completed and approved by the publisher, I refined the image and transferred it to scratchboard. I used various nibs for different effects.
Jeffery with Airman portrait

Jeffery: What do you want readers to take away from the book?
Carole: I want them to be inspired by the courage and determination of the Tuskegee Airmen. I want them to understand that the sky is no limit if they are willing to prepare themselves, practice and persevere. The book aims to lift the ceiling off of young people’s dreams. 
P-51 Mustangs flying in formation over Ramitelli, Italy.

Did you know? The Tuskegee Airmen got the name Red Tails when their ground crew painted the tail of the P-47 red.

WWII by the numbers: Before the Tuskegee Experiment began, there were only 130 licensed African American pilots in the U.S.

Here's one of my favorite poems from the book.

Train Ride to the Clouds

All aboard for Tuskegee Institute,
where Booker T. Washington uplifted ex-slaves
and George Washington Carver 
is working wonders with sweet potatoes!

If Carver can make paint
from clay and plastics from soy,
then the school Booker T. founded
can surely make you a pilot.

If you did not believe that were true
you would not have packed your bag 
and boarded the train for Alabama
with a Bible and a box lunch from your mama.

If your faith were not vast as the sky,
you would never have taken this leap.

Poem © Carole Boston Weatherford, 2016. All rights reserved.

The poems in this volume are moving, vivid, and packed with information.  The poem in the Epilogue describes the race barrier breaking moments that came after the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way for integration of the U.S. military. The backmatter includes an author's note, timeline, and extensive list of additional resources and primary sources. 

You can find helpful teacher resources for this work at: https://cbweatherford.com/books/youcanfly/teacher-resources/

*****
My thanks to Carole and Jeffery for sharing their conversation and their work. You Can Fly: The Tuskegee Airmen was released on May 3rd and is available now. Don't miss it!

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10. The Wild Robot - an audiobook review

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

Read by Kate Atwater
Hachette Audio, 2016

AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award Winner

I recently reviewed The Wild Robot for AudioFile Magazine.  You can read my full review and hear an audio excerpt here. [http://www.audiofilemagazine.com/reviews/read/110681/the-wild-robot-by-peter-brown/]

The Wild Robot, a novel for ages 8 and up, is a departure from Peter Brown's usual offering of picture books (Creepy Carrots, Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, My Teacher is a Monster - and more), but his customary excellence is just as apparent.

The link to my review is above, however, I'd like to highlight a few things.  The Wild Robot premise is unique and thought-provoking - a robot designed with AI and programmed for self-preservation and nonviolence, is marooned on an island with animals, but no humans from which to learn.  The narrator, Kate Atwater, does a stellar job (see review) and sounds a bit like Susan Sarandon. The audio book is unique in that the beginning and the closing chapters have sound effects including music and sounds of nature.

Overall, it's very well done!  If you'd prefer to check out the print version, Little Brown Books for Young Readers offers an excerpt of the print version of The Wild Robot here. [http://openbook.hbgusa.com/openbook/9780316382014]

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11. Book Review: On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Title: On the Edge of Gone
Author: Corinne Duyvis
Published: 2016
Source: NetGalley

Summary: On the eve of the apocalypse, Denise and her mom scramble to get to a shelter that will protect them (maybe) from the comet heading their way. Somehow, they luck onto a spaceship that plans to head for the stars. But can they keep their place?

First Impressions: Ahh this was good. Denise felt so real.

Later On: Like Duyvis's first book, Otherbound, this should have felt overstuffed, if we subscribe to publishing's prevailing mindset about intersectionality. A black autistic main character? With a trans sister? And a mother suffering from mental illness and addiction? (Not to mention it all takes place in the Netherlands, with Dutch characters.) But it works, oh how it works, and the reason it works is because these are details about their characters, not the plot. This is diversity in character building done right.

The focus is on Denise's struggle to carve out a place for herself and her family on the generation ship. Sometimes the reason it's a struggle is because of familiar autism characteristics, such as difficulties with social cues, hyper-focus on specific things, and sensory overstimulation, and how all these are ramped up by stress. However, it's also a struggle because of the shipboard bureaucracy, her mother's issues, worry over her sister, and oh yes. The world is ending. Denise's autism neither causes nor stands apart from any of that.

And finally, at the end, Denise finds her own place. She's not given it, she's not wedged in. She does things that are a challenge for her, she succeeds because of her own talents, and she earns her spot.

More: Waking Brain Cells
Disability in Kidlit

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12. Book Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

Title: See How They Run
Author: Ally Carter
Published: 2015
Source: Edelweiss

Summary: Grace has finally discovered the truth about her mother's death, but it was a lot more complex than even she thought. Secret societies and centuries-old conspiracies swirl around her as more disasters, both international and personal, loom ahead.

First Impressions: This took forever to get up and running but after that it was a pretty fast read. Still, it suffered from middle-book-syndrome. Too much left over from the first book, too many loose threads for the benefit of the third book. Agh.

Later On: I stick by my initial impression. Having read the first book a long time ago, it was hard to dredge up the details, and there were a lot of loose threads left waving at the end, clearly for the benefit of the next book. I was surprised that she killed off one character - I thought for sure he was going to stick around and be the third in a love triangle.

More: Book Nut

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13. Book Review: The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Title: The Lucy Variations
Author: Sara Zarr
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library

Summary: Lucy was a piano prodigy who dramatically and publicly quit music about six months ago, to the rage and disappointment of her mother and grandfather. When her little brother (also being groomed to musical greatness) gets a new piano teacher, Lucy finds herself yearning to go back to the instrument. But the thought of letting herself in for the pressure of performing and achieving is still horrifying, and how can she have one without the other?

First Impressions: I'm glad Zarr didn't go the route of a full-on affair with Lucy and Will, but just brushed up against it. The characters are nicely complex and flawed.

Later On: Sara Zarr is one of those auto-TBR authors for me. She presents characters that are realistic, bumping up against other characters that are realistic, and never goes the obvious route. Lucy's relationship with Will is more about friendship and music, sort of leaning in the direction of sexual/romantic, but never quite getting there. (Phew.) Also, it never quite gets there because (spoilerish) Lucy realizes that Will is not quite the person she thought he was.

Lucy's relationship with music is a bit more tricky and Zarr handles that with compassion and shades of grey as well. Lucy loves music itself. After months of not even playing a note, she misses it like you miss the love of your life. But for her, music is wrapped around with her relationship with her mother and her grandfather, and even her dead grandmother. Their reactions to her dramatic departure from the public eye were anger and disappointment and feelings of betrayal (here we put all this effort into your education and this is how you repay us??) Lucy of course would rather do anything than return to music because it would mean they were right that she would miss it and want it back.
(I think Liz Burns put it best when she said they basically all went, "FINE!" "FINE!" and went off into different rooms to sulk and glare at each other.)

I loved how Lucy finds a way through all the morass of family expectations to work out what she wants and is prepared to do.

More: A Chair, A Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
Bookshelves of Doom includes this book and a brief review on a roundup of piano-prodigy stories, so if that element appeals to you, here's some more reading.

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14. RUNOFF Graphic Novel by Tom Manning Book Review

Mysterious things are happening in Range, a small town in the shadow of Mount Rainier.  Runoff Graphic Novel is a dramatic thriller which reminds me a…

The post RUNOFF Graphic Novel by Tom Manning Book Review appeared first on RABBLEBOY - The Official Blog of Kenneth Kit Lamug.

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15. A captivating middle grade book-Southern Gothic

I know many parents and visitors to this site are frequently on the hunt for captivating books for their older readers..and lucky me, I just discovered a new one!

Southern Gothic by Middle Grade/YA author Bridgette Alexander is a wonderful new book which incorporates art and mystery in very intriguing ways. I learned of Bridgette and this intriguing book when so became one of our Author Sponsors for Multicultural Children’s Book Day in January.

Southern Gothic

Celine Caldwell lives a life of privilege, allowed into the elite art community of NYC thanks to her powerhouse mother who is a curator for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Julia Caldwell has made a prestigious name for herself in the art community. With that comes loyal followers as well as fervent enemies, and Celine soon gets wrapped up in her mother’s political and backwards world.

Two paintings have gone missing from the Met’s archives, paintings that Julia Caldwell publicly deemed unfit for the Met’s prestigious reputation and her selective exhibitions. Julia’s attitude towards the paintings pinpoints her as the head suspect in the NYPD’s investigation into the missing paintings. Celine cannot stand by and let her mother be accused of something she knows she would never in a million years do. Julia may not appreciate the paintings, but she would most certainly never steal them.

Celine and her best friends Sandy, Baheera, and Troy jump right into their own investigation, unaware just how over their heads than they are. But Celine soon realizes that there’s much more to these paintings than meets the eye. While they might seem simple on the surface level, they tell a story—a true story at that, one that is near to a lot of people’s hearts and forces Celine and her friends to relive a murky time in the American South’s history.
Despite the mystery and the danger that follows her investigation, Celine manages to crack the code, piece together the story behind the missing paintings, and clear her mother’s name. All while dating a new guy and managing to stay in school. I’d call that a success, wouldn’t you say?

Learning about Art from Southern Gothic:

I actually learned a lot about art in this novel. I enjoy looking at art, but I cannot say I’m necessarily profound in my analyses of them. But Celine Caldwell taught me a lot. For instance, a provenance is a record of ownership of a work of art, used as a guide to authenticity and quality. Celine’s investigation involved creating a provenance for the Southern Gothic art trilogy.

Pieces of art have been used as legal documents in the past. The Marriage of Arnolfini depicts a wedding of the Italian Medici family, and it basically serves as a marriage licence. Portrait d’une Negresse depicts an African-American woman after she was freed from slavery and brought to France. This painting serves as her ticket of freedom, showing that she is a free citizen, not a slave.

You’ll have to involve yourself in Celine’s investigation to learn more.


bridgetteBridgette R. Alexander is a modern art historian. She received her graduate training in 19th century French art history at the University of Chicago. Alexander worked with some of the world’s greatest museums in New York, Paris, Berlin and Chicago and developed art education programs; curated exhibits; she has taught and published in art history. She’s been featured in a number of publications including, Art + Auction Magazine; the Wall Street Journal; and the Washington Post. SOUTHERN GOTHIC is her debut novel. Alexander currently lives in Chicago and when not writing, she takes her husband, daughter and friends on midnight tours of the cultural institutions.

 

Something To Do: Interesting Links if you’re interested in getting more involved in the art community:
Art

Art Museums Around the World

art museums
Met Museums Kids and Family Resources

@MetKids logo

The answer to the question “Why the arts are important.”

Planning a visit to France? You have to stop at the world’s biggest museum, Le Louvre. And I’d plan your day around this massive museum. You can get lost for hours in this magnificent building.

Paris art

Happy reading!

Speaking of art…Do you know what Hans Christian Andersen liked as much as his fairy tales?

Paper! He was an addict to paper. He wrote on it, he drew on it and he use to cut in it. Just like a sculptor carves the figure out of stone, Hans Christian Andersen use to cut his stories out of paper. In fact he was a very popular paper cutter. (images courtesy of the Odense Museum)

Hans Christian Andersen
In order to amuse his friends and their children, Hans made his very famous paper cuts. Wherever he would go he would carry his bag filled with paper and these very large monstrous scissors which he used to cut out the most elegant figures.

Would you like to create a very special item that is inspired by the paper cuttings of Hans Christian Andersen?
I’ve made a FREE off the shoulder felt story bag craft and tutorial just for this occasion! This simple craft is something the whole family can participate in creating it will make a delightful gift for the book lover in your life. I hope your little bag of tales holds as many wonders for you as ours has.

Click the image below and get instant access to this Hans Christian Andersen-inspired shoulder bag!

Storyteller-Bag

The post A captivating middle grade book-Southern Gothic appeared first on Jump Into A Book.

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16. By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson




By the Stars by Lindsay B. Ferguson

Over the years, I have been asked to review many, many, many books. Because I haven't blogged often in the last couple years, I have mostly ignored email requests for reviews. When Lindsay B. Ferguson emailed me, I had to chuckle. She is my neighbor, and I was aware of her upcoming debut novel, but she didn't realize who I was. :) I told her that I'm a blogging slacker, and we decided not to have my blog be part of her big blog tour. You see...It gets sticky reviewing books for people you know. What if you hate it?

But...I bought the book on my Kindle the day it was released, and I wasn't just pleasantly surprised, I LOVED IT. I love that it is based on a true story, and I can't wait to talk to Lindsay about what exactly is history and what she created. I love the characters. I love the romance. I love it all. And you know what it really made me want to do? Like big time? Go dancing! Can we resurrect dance halls, please?

I know that among my friends, Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson, was extremely well-liked. Edenbrooke was the first in a collection of "Proper Romances". For friends who love Edenbrooke and other clean romance novels, By the Stars should be your next read!

From Amazon: "When Cal finally gets a chance with Kate, the girl he's loved since grade school, their easy friendship quickly blossoms into a meaningful romance. Spirited and independent, Kate keeps a guarded heart due to a painful past, and Cal wants nothing more than to gain her trust. But World War II soon cuts their time far too short, and Cal prepares to part from her - possibly for good. After he's gone, what Kate does next changes everything. 

In the suffocating jungles of the Philippines Cal encounters the chilling life of a soldier and deadly battles of war. With Kate's memory willing him on, Cal must put his trust in God to survive if he hopes to ever return to her. Inspired by a true story, By the Stars is a love story that stands the test of time and the most intense obstacles."

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17. Book Review: The Fallout by S.A. Bodeen

Title: The Fallout
Author: SA Bodeen
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library
Summary: After living for six years in an underground bunker, mistakenly believing that the world had ended aboveground (and that his twin perished in the apocalypse), Eli and his family are trying to readjust to the real world - which was not destroyed. But their father's deception isn't over yet.
First Impressions: A pretty reasonable teen suspense novel, if a little on the quiet side for the genre. I really liked that Eli is very much a caretaker of his younger brothers and sisters, and in some ways his older sister. This nurturing aspect isn't one you see in teen male characters enough.
Later On: I think you really have to have read Bodeen's prequel, The Compound, to understand a lot of the family undercurrents that are moving underneath this story, particularly the messy stew of guilt and resentment that festers between Eli and his twin brother as they try to readjust to having each other again.
I think this did wrap up a lot of the threads from the earlier book, especially the uneasy adjustment to actually living outside the bunker again. The subplot about their older sister's parentage felt a little tacked on until it folded into the main story about their father's deceptions and machinations.
More: I couldn't find a review to share from my blogroll, probably because this is three years old. If you reviewed this, let me know!

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18. Book Review: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Title: The Scorpion Rules
Author: Erin Bow
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Far in the future, most wars have been suppressed by a world-level AI, who holds children of world leaders hostage and kills them if their parents declare war on each other. Greta is one of these "prisoners of peace", resigned to her lot, resolved to face her possible fate with dignity. Into her calm, ordered existence comes Elian, neither resigned nor dignified, and shakes her world down to its foundations.
First Impressions: THIS DESTROYED ME ON AN EMOTIONAL LEVEL OH HELP
Later On: Now that I've calmed down.
This is an ugly book.
This is a beautiful book.
This is a book about people and AIs and countries and politics that are all ugly and beautiful and flawed and amazing. My favorite character was Tallis, the megalomaniac AI who holds all their lives in his digital hand, and somehow manages to convince you that his approach actually makes sense. Until you remember that he's a megalomaniac AI who's basically holding the entire world hostage. And then he's still actually one of my favorite characters.
My favorite thing about it was that Elian was not Greta's love interest. He becomes very special to her. He forces her to rethink the world and herself, but the love story is between her and fellow princess/prisoner Xie. That said, their love story never would have happened except for the way that Greta's worldview changes after Elian comes on the scene, so it's all interwoven in the most beautiful of ways.
I'll be honest. If you weren't able to handle the Hunger Games' level of brutality and harrowing personal choices, you will struggle with The Scorpion Rules. But this is a book that's worth the discomfort and the emotional destruction, for the questions it asks about duty, politics, personal freedom, and the individual's obligation to the world.
More: A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy
Charlotte's Library

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19. Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is about to start her senior year of high school. As summer draws to a close, she heads off to cheer camp with her coach and her teammates, including Polly, her best friend and co-captain, and Leo, her boyfriend. Knowing this will be the last time she attends the camp, Hermione intends to make it the best one ever, to work hard, to enjoy the challenges and the routines and the music and the friendships, and to set a good example for her teammates and friends.

Then, on the night of the camp dance, Hermione is raped - her cup of punch drugged by a boy, she blacks out and wakes up in the hospital. The night holds no memories for her past the blackout. She cannot remember the face of her attacker, nor does she have any recollection of what he actually did to her. All she knows is what the doctors, nurses, and detectives have put together from examining her.

Her town is small; everyone knows what happened. The hallways of her school are filled with whispers and judgmental looks, and her relationship with her boyfriend dissolves. But Hermione doesn't withdraw from social interaction or change schools - the latter doesn't even occur to her. She doesn't like being the subject of gossip or scorn or pity. She remembers who she was, she knows who she is, and she is determined to stay true to herself while dealing what has happened.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston was above and beyond what I hoped it would be. Compelling writing, complex characters, realistic dialogue - there is much to praise here. This book could have been riddled with cliches; it was not. It could have been predictable or saccharine; it was neither. The events and reactions were feasible, believable, never farfetched or contrived. The story was layered and nuanced, allowing for warmth and humor sometimes when you least expected it (and most needed it).

Hermione tells her story in first-person narrative. She is an intelligent, resilient, mature young woman who is stronger than she knows. The characters that surround her are so vividly drawn - especially Polly, the fierce and loyal best friend who is equal parts fire and compassion - that any one of them could have a book of their own. And that is one of the loveliest things here: that the supporting characters are truly supportive of Hermione, that she is not dealing with this alone - and also that the supporting characters have their own arcs, their own problems and heartbreaks and priorities.

There is so much I want to say about this book. How it treats subjects such as sexual assault, doctor's visits, therapy, and victim shaming head-on, honestly and openly; how it encourages cheerleaders to be seen as athletes, not airheads; how it includes a variety of characters of various ages and personalities; and, most of all, how it allows its protagonist to be human, to wrestle with emotions and choices and ultimately emerge triumphant not because of or in spite of what happened/happens to her, but because of how she chooses to see herself, not a victim, not a statistic, not diminished, and how she chooses to live, unashamed, undeterred, always moving forward.

I knew before I was raped that this year would be the end of something. I just thought I'd be able to control the ending.

And, again, the magnificent writing: the choice of words, the steady pacing, the characterizations; the importance of a chair, a song, a friend; the details of a waiting room, a quiet house, an exuberant squad; the feeling of flying -- There is so much to applaud here.

Both thought-provoking and profoundly memorable, Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston is a triumph. I encourage people to read and re-read this book and to share it with others. Don't be surprised if you find yourself both crying and smiling as you turn the final page - and then start reading it all over again.

If you like this book, you will also like Swollen by Melissa Lion and All the Rage by Courtney Summers.

Exit, Pursued by a Bear is included on my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

This review was originally published at my blog, Bildungsroman.


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20. Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir by Stan Lee

Touchstone, 2015

If you are looking to add more non-fiction to your collection, then look no further!  Well...look further than this book but definitely add this one to your collection.

Stan Lee, creator and Marvel characters Spiderman, The Hulk and the Fantastic Four has FINALLY created a comic book memoir of his life.  Starting with his very humble beginnings, he narrates his life from there and his journey through the halls of comic bookdom, including some amazingly talented people he was not only able to meet but work with as well.  He tells about his stint in the military during World War II writing beside the likes of Theodor Geisel and other notable cartoonists that would become famous in their own right.  Lee also lovingly shares the story of his romance with his wife of six decades and the reader is able to see how their relationship had on Lee's professional career.  He takes us all the way to present day where people watch for his cameo appearance in any Marvel movie.

What made Stan Lee such an icon is the fact that he changed the face of comic book writing, broke through some huge barriers put up by corporate suits and federal laws (on comics, of all things!) and continued the popularity of comic book from page to screen while continuing to write to audiences ranging from children to adult.

And if you think this is just another memoir, think again.  Lee manages to expertly weave the history of Marvel Comics from page to screen and beyond so the reader not only gets a glimpse of his life, but a timeline of Marvel from its early beginnings to present day.

Another interesting facet of this book is the narrator himself.  Yes, it's Stan Lee (and artist Colleen Doran did a stellar job of creating real life superheroes...got to see it to understand what I mean) but in the audience is a little boy who is fascinated with his tale and inserts himself into Lee's narration.  Lee knows that little boy well because....it's himself.  He weaves narrator and audience into a beautiful story of past and present which any comic book fan will devour.

Highly recommended by JH/HS and beyond.  As only Stan Lee can do so well.


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21. If you’re a Gutsy Girl-Read This!

gutsy girl

March is Women’s History Month and we’re bringing the month to a close by celebrating in grand style. Before women make their history, they first had to have some focus, bravery, and perseverance to get them there. Let’s face it, all women have hurdles to jump over, but every woman that makes, and contributes, to history qualifies as a “Gusty Girl!”

Before we continue, we need to pause for a…..

WARNING !!!

” Many of the situations that the author encounters in this book have inherent dangers and can lead to serious or even fatal injuries. One particular undertaking-Climbing the Golden Gate Bridge-is also illegal and should not be attempted. Readers should not venture into any of these situations without professional instruction, suitable training, and proper supervision. Neither the publisher nor the author assumes ay responsibility for any injuries incurred by the reader.”

This is the first page of one of the greatest reads of the year. You’re probably in one of two camps after reading this warning. The first camp can’t wait to find out what could be in this book to create such a warning and the second camp will run as fast as they can. Just so you know, I’m in the first camp BUT I greatly advise people of the second camp to take a deep breath and read it anyway. There’s something for everyone to help unveil the gutsy in all of us.

First I had to know more about that Golden Gate Bridge story and second I just had to know more about author Caroline Paul, what type of woman is she and what escapades in her life led her to write a guidebook for tween girls about creating such adventures? The Gutsy Girl:Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure is probably one of the finest reads I’ve picked up so far in 2016.

gutsy girl guide cover

Backstory

Author Caroline Paul was one of the first women on the San Franciso firefighting force as well as an experimental plane pilot, throughout the pages of her book we also learn that she is a recovering/rescue scuba diver. All this from a woman who says she was the biggest scaredy cat in the world as a child. Caroline greatly believes that girls are taught to be frightened by being instilled with the language of “fear”, while boys are fed that bravery and resilience are the goals to aspire to.

The Gutsy Girl: Escapades of Your Life of Epic Adventure is her antidote to empower tween girls to embrace their own bravery and resilience. This book is FUNNY and extremely imaginative and really intelligently written. Inside she shares her own stories one by one and the lessons and bravery she learned. Not all of them have happy endings but all of them have a take away to a new understanding of who she is or was at that time. This book is also part manifesto using language, insights, and encouragement into bravery and shear gutsiness. This is a guidebook however, and guidebooks mean you have to take action. Caroline Paul has also placed many great and inventive activities called Daring-Dos, as well as journal pages to reflect on ones own Daring-Dos experiences.

gutsygirl1

While sharing her escapades, author Caroline Paul is brilliant about showing the boundary lines between being gutsy and being stupid. She is always cautioning against being reckless and the difference between recklessness and being adventurous . She just doesn’t say it once, it’s sprinkled everywhere throughout the book in many different ways.

IMG_2644

Some of My Favorite Parts

I learned some fun new things….

The illustrations in The Gusty Girl :Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure are done by her partner Wendy Macnaughton who also has a great sense of humor. One of my favorite illustrations is the Gutsy Girl International Phrase Book. It had me howling probably because I’ve needed to ask these very questions of people in far off lands and unknown languages.

IMG_2646

Did you know this about how to know what temperature it is ?

IMG_2645

So cool right ?

Something To Do

Writer Caroline Paul wasn’t always brave, or adventurous.

I had been a shy and fearful kid. Many things had scared me. Bigger kids. Second grade. The elderly woman across the street. Being called on in class. The book Where the Wild Things Are. Woods at dusk. The way the bones in my hand crisscrossed.

Being scared was a terrible feeling, like sinking in quicksand. My stomach would drop, my feet would feel heavy, my head would prickle. Fear was an all-body experience. For a shy kid like me it was overwhelming.”

She gives great examples of current gutsy girls and women. Some known most we’ve never heard of but I’m so glad to know about them now.

Right within the pixels of Jump Into a Book we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing books based on Gutsy Girls. Here are a few of my favorites:

Below you’ll find a list and some links to some more gutsy girls. Go discover them and see what their bravery and adventuresome spirit inspires you to do.

Please Meet

Laura Dekker who set sail on the boat she made and remodeled with her father. Just shy of her 15th birthday, she set sail around the world to become the youngest person to ever circumnavigate the globe ALONE.

Learn more about her here. She also has a blog and a book called One Girl, One Dream.

Gutsy girl 6

Marie Antoine started climbing trees as a kid for fun. Now she does it as her job. She’s one of the few botanists who work in the canopies of the world’s largest trees the redwoods. From 325 feet up in the air, you’ll find her munching her lunch and taking a little snooze in the hammock she brings along. That’s a long long way down. One of my personal daring dos is to climb up into a Redwood tree. Just thought I’d share that. I first learned of Marie from the book The Wild Trees by Richard Preston which talked about her and her husband Stephen Stillet and the work they do way up there. Here’s a great look at their lives.

gutsy 7

Shark Whisperer Cristina Zenato grew up is the African Congo. She is an accomplished diver. Christina calms the sharks by rubbing around their nose and mouth along small jelly filled holes. This quiets the shark into a semi-paralytic state for up to 20 minutes. During the time the sharks are hypnotized, Christina pulls out fishhooks, removes parasites from their skins, and extracts various samples for scientific research. In lieu of being fearful of these large sea creatures, she calls them family and says they are greatly misunderstood. Do you know who else says that ? My eldest daughter, “Bun-Girl” who also has had her own adventures with sharks.

To find out more about Christina Zenato  have a look here.

This book honestly speaks to girls and women of all ages. I found it to be timeless in it’s appeal. She beckons us to embrace the spirit of adventure or at the very least to explore the idea. She shares what it means to be brave, that perseverance is how to get through it, that we don’t need to be perfect just present and the most important take away for being a Gutsy Girl is to laugh at oneself a lot. That’s an important skill especially when trying to do nearly impossible things.

IMG_2647

Are you a Gutsy Girl?

 

Ready to get your “sleuth” on? My Secret Codes, Mysteries and Adventures Activity PDF for kids will keep young minds percolating for HOURS!

Inside young super detectives will discover:

*19 pages of sleuthing fun for your family to enjoy.
*Use Pilot Frixion Pens and craft paper to create Invisible Secret Notes!
*Make I Spy Cookies!
*Discover a President of the United States who was a Master Code Creator!

This free activity guide is a great way to encourage kids to pull books off of shelves, discover the power of imagination and build a new excitement and anticipation for reading. Fill out the info below and grab your FREE copy. Enjoy!

secret codes

My free gift to YOU!

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22. Book Review: Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics

Title: Daughters Unto Devils
Author: Amy Lukavics
Published: 2015
Source: NetGalley
Summary: Pregnant (what was with me and the pregnant girls this month?) and trying to hide it, Amanda Verner goes with her parents and her family to what they think will be a wonderful new homestead on the prairie. AHAHAHA. They are soooooo wrong.
First Impressions: This was horrific. And the ending was a complete downer. Pitfall of the genre.
Later On: Somehow I keep reading horror novels even when I know how much I hate the darkness of them. So take this review with that particular grain of salt. It's not the gore I mind so much (although this one was pretty extreme in this book, both directly and by way of horrifying images), but the creeping feeling that the dark is undefeatable and only rarely escapable. However, if that's what you like, this is the book for you.
Aside from that, this didn't hang together terribly well for me, and the explanations furnished about why various characters acted the way they did were too little, too late. And I would have liked a little history about why that patch of prairie was particularly haunted or cursed.
More: Bookshelves of Doom reviewed this for Kirkus and she liked it a whole lot more than I did.

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23. Book Review: Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

Title: Spinning Starlight
Author: R.C. Lewis
Published: 2015
Source: Netgalley
Summary: A retelling of Hans Christian Anderson's The Wild Swans - iiiiiiin spaaaaaaaaaaace. Liddi is the youngest daughter of a famous family of inventors, one who has so far failed to make her mark. After her many brothers are kidnapped and imprisoned between dimensions Liddi escapes her home planet and flees to one that's been cut off from the rest of the system for eons. She's still cursed to silence by a chip in her throat that will kill her brothers if she speaks a word, and she somehow must find a way to free her brothers.
First Impressions: I liked the inclusion of Liddi's fame and her mental newscasts. The plot spent a lot of time floundering around on the new planet before she actually started doing things though.
Later On: This didn't stick with me very well, but I thought the whole idea of different planets and the brothers being caught in hyperspace wormholes as a stand-in for transformation into swans was a neat one. I always enjoy a fairy tale retelling, especially when things are tweaked to fit into the world they're set in.
More: I had a terrible time finding reviews of this amongst my favorite blogs. If you reviewed it, let me know!

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24. Using “Under the Mesquite” to Help Medical Students Gain Cultural Awareness

We are always excited to hear about uniquGuest Bloggere ways in which our books are being used, and were thrilled to come across this review of Under the Mesquite that outlines how to use the book in a very special way: to help medical students gain cultural awareness and insight into the experiences of patients from different backgrounds. Author Mark Kuczewski kindly gave us permission to cross-post this review from the Reflective MedEd blog.

Helping medical students to gain cultural awareness and insight into the experience of patients and families from backgrounds different than their own is no small task.  And the search for poignant materials that are easily fit within the demanding environment of a medical school curriculum is never-ending. The good news is that I can unequivocally recommend Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall (Lee & Low Books, 2011). This narrative will help students to gain insight into the meaning of illness within families, especially within the context of a particular contemporary newly-arrived Mexican-American family…

The author, known as “Lupita” within the story, recounts experiences from her high school years when her mother suffered from cancer and underwent extensive treatment, sometimes for long periods at a medical center far from home. Because the author’s father accompanies his wife on these journeys, Lupita, the oldest daughter, takes on responsibility for the family. We are treated to her perspective in coping with her mother’s illness from spy work to find out the secreto that the adults guard in their hushed whispers to the difficulties that come when her parents are away such as being unable to keep order among her siblings. Lupita paints a portrait of a prudent family that begins a savings account with the birth of each child but whose resources are exhausted by the medical bills leaving her struggling each day to procure food to put on the table. And we come to know the importance of the arts, acting in school plays and writing in journals, as means to channel her anxieties and craft something beautiful.Under the Mesquite cover image

Of course, the particular flavor of the narrative comes from the perspective of one who has significant roots on both sides of the border. She simultaneously gives us a window into the challenges of growing up bicultural and navigating the conflicting demands of loyalty to la familia that nurtured her and pursuing the dream of achieving a different kind of life that is available in the new world. The author lets us taste the bittersweet nature of this ambivalence both in her day-to-day growth as she is accused by her adolescent peers of trying to be something she is not as she loses her accent and in the more profound and cyclical heartbreak of separation. She relates her grief at abandoning her precious sunflowers when her father uproots her from her familiar home in Mexico and she in turn must break his heart as she heads off to college to pursue her dreams.

In sum, this book is among the most usable I’ve found with medical students for two reasons. First, it meets the main requirement of being an enjoyable and quick read. This autobiographical account is most likely to be devoured within a single day.  The author is a superb writer and some of our medical students repeatedly commented that they wish she said more in most passages. Second, she enables us to easily identify with her struggles. Because all adults were once adolescents, we have a framework regarding the struggle for self-discovery and identity into which her cultural context is infused. She enables us to access the different through the familiar. Guadalupe Garcia McCall is a first-rate guide and mentor to those of us who seek insight into the Mexican-American experience and the particular strengths and means of coping that a family steeped in this hybrid culture might possess.

Mark G. Kuczewski, PhD, is the Chair of the Department of Medical Education and the Director of the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.


Purchase Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall here.

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25. Book Review: Earth Girl by Janet Edwards

Title: Earth Girl
Author: Janet Edwards
Published: 2013
Source: Local Library
Summary: Born with a rare allergy to anywhere besides planet Earth, Jarra is shackled to the home soil, mocked and derided by the rest of humanity who are living among the stars. Tired of being called an ape and a throwback, she pretends to be a regular human when she enters college (an archaeological program that takes place in the ruins of New York City), but it's a deception that can't last forever.
First Impressions: Really interesting world and setup, but I felt distanced from the characters and stakeless.
Later On: For a girl with so many roadblocks supposedly in her way, Jarra sure seemed to sail right through all her difficulties, including her budding relationship with fellow student and non-"ape" Fian. She was also good at everything, although the author provided excellent logic for it due to her Earth upbringing.
The world-building was pretty nifty and intricate, even if the author did occasionally bring the whole story to a screeching halt to tell us about the war between Planet A and Planet B that did Thing C to the interplanetary relations.
I guess my reaction to this could be summed up with "the things that annoyed me and the things that the author gave us good reasons for were, in fact, the same damn things, WTF."
More: Charlotte's Library articulates some of my feelings on this, and also brings the perspective of an Actual Archaeologist.

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