Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

images (710×1080)I am part of a committee at my library system that plans social book talks- we find books that speak to pressing social issues and then we host an event inviting the public to come in and discuss the book and the issues. This month we partnered with a local book store and  we were able to bring in the authors of All American Boys last Saturday for an inspiring conversation. Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds are two great guys. Reynolds in particular is on a hot streak and  his latest book is Ghost.

Set in the city it deals with a young tween called Castle Crenshaw who describes himself as having "mad and sad feelings" which sometimes leads to altercations at school.. He has had a hard life and now he and his mom eke out a hardscrabble existence in a less than desirable neighborhood. His mother works long hours to provide for them both and she has high expectations for him.

He is a tough kid but not tough enough to escape frequent taunts at school from a bully. He stumbles into a track meet one day and although he isn't impressed by the coach's gruff manner and reptilian appearance (Castle thinks he has a "turtle face") he tries out. Lo and behold he discovers that he is a runner. Coach invites him to join the team and thus begins a new phase in Castle's life.

This book covers a lot of topics. I like it's hopeful tone however. Castle is a kid with many flaws but he is resilient, he knows right from wrong and works hard. With those qualities he will go far in life. This is the first in Reynolds' Track series so I will definitely keep my eyes open for future installments. I recommend this book for ages 9 and up. Some read alikes are Coe Booth' s Kinda Like Brothers and  Andrew Clements' The Jacket.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trouble Next Door by Karen English

Image result for carver chronicles trouble nextTrouble Next Door by Karen English is an installment in a great little series called The Carver Chronicles. The characters are for the most part people of color but the setting isn't necessarily urban. The series is set in Carver Elementary school in

In this book,we meet an ordinary kid who sometimes has trouble doing his homework and who is having even more trouble thinking of a great idea for the science fair (something he desperately wants to win). At school he sometimes has to evade a big, gruff kid everyone calls Monster Boy. Then one day Calvin gets a new neighbor-Monster Boy!

Calvin must decide whether or not to accept Monster Boy as his friend as his dad wants him to or to completely ignore him despite the fact that they're neighbors. His friends would recommend the latter option.  Doing so would go against everything his parents taught him and besides...it's hard to avoid him when their bedroom windows face each other!


This book covers a lot of subjects (such as different families, bullies, science among others) but in a nice understated manner that is just right for  kids in grades 3 and up. I reckon it has some hi-lo potential as well. Highly recommended and I am going to check out the rest of the series as soon as I get a chance. Some read alikes are The Buried Bones Mystery by Sharon M. Draper, Nikki & Deja by Karen English and Sally Warner's EllRay Jakes series.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg


images (1875×2550)Novels in verse have surged in popularity over the last few years and this is another excellent addition to the genre. Set in pre-Civil War America we meet Grace just as she is told she has to go to the Big House and leave her family whom she loves very much.  Her light skin is the reason she has been chosen for this new job.

At the Big House she meets some other slaves including Jordon, the man servant; Anna, a girl who sleeps on the floor of the master bedroom to help the Mistress and Aunt Tempie the cook. Aunt Tempie takes Grace under her wing and teachers her about the duties in the kitchen as well as the whims of the masters.

Grace is by nature a passionate person who has a strong sense of justice and this sometimes gets her into trouble. At the Big House she is exposed to many slights and microaggressions in a more direct way than when she was in the field and she finds it hard to contain her emotions. Of course impudence can lead to serious consequences and soon she finds that she must grow up a lot faster than she would like.

Aunt Tempie and Grace's mother are, to me, the voices of reason and it is their example that Grace ends up following in the end. Though at first she is tempted to blame all whites for the bad things done to herself and other slaves she soon realizes that such thinking is dangerous. To the author's credit she does introduce one person, Ms Charlotte, who is sympathetic to the slaves' plight. This may be a hard book to read for some but it is well-written. Some read alikes to it are Lisa Fowler's Snakes and Stones and Running Out of Night by Sharon Lovejoy.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg

Image result    I don't judge books by their covers but this book by Elizabeth Eulberg not only has two children of different ethnicity but the title is also a nod the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.  John Watson is new to the great metropolis and just as he and his mother are settling in to their new digs on Baker Street he meets a quirky kid called Shelby Holmes.

 Shelby is a preternaturally gifted child and she spends her time solving various petty crimes in the neighborhood, something which has made her somewhat of a celebrity.  Watson is amazed at the way grown ups treat her. Most grown ups that is, except police officer Lestrade...

 Mixing themes such as non-traditional families, current events, urban decay and so forth. Eulberg captures the atmosphere of the city of New York. There are various other nods to the great detective throughout the book that I won't reveal, I will say though that they add to the story and provide a good chuckle for Holmes fans.

    Holmes is awkward to say the least but Watson has his own health challenges and I liked that Eulberg incorporated that into the story as well. In the end this is a book that a variety of kids can relate to because these are not perfect kids. Some read alikes to it would be Sharon M. Draper's The Buried Bones Mystery, The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley and Elise Broach's The Wolf Keepers.