Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball by Phyllis J. Perry

I was offered a copy of this short (about 100 pages) middle grade fiction title and it was a fun and entertaining story about a 5th grader who has to deal with some bullies at school and who loves baseball. The story was very relatable and I think most kids would find this it appealing. It was a quick read and one that would appeal to reluctant readers.

I’m so glad that I got to read and review it, and I will be sharing it with my school library. Thank you for my copy!

Here’s the overview:

A cloud hangs over Jack as he begins fifth grade. Two boys from his class, Steve and Cliff, who began bullying him last spring, harass him again as soon as school starts. They take brownies and cookies from his lunch and call him “Mustard” because they think he’s a coward. When Jack walks a different route to school to avoid them, they find him anyway. When he doesn’t take a lunch but brings lunch money, they steal his money. When he rides his bike to school, they let the air out of the tires. Jack is miserable but he’s ashamed to ask for help and doesn’t want to tell anyone about his problem.

Lizabeth and C.J are Jack’s best friends. C.J. has his own problems. He needs help to learn reading, and Steve makes fun of him, calling him “Retardo.” A new boy in school, Hans Ollig from Germany, speaks only a little English and is trying hard to learn to talk like the other kids. Jack is assigned to show him around the school.

Members of Jack’s family are all baseball fans and tremendously excited that the Colorado Rockies are going to be in the World Series. Jack’s uncle has given him an old glove from his high school days. When Jack takes the glove to school, it disappears.

Jack and his fifth grade buddies welcome a new student, Hans, into their group. Hans speaks only a little English but is enthusiastic and a quick learner. All of them are baseball fans and thrilled that their Colorado Rockies team will be in the World Series.

Jack and his buddies must find a way to get his baseball glove back and celebrate at the World Series as a team.

Follow the links for more info (from the publisher):

Here is the link to the book:

Buddies, Bullies, and Baseball  

Here is the publisher’s website link:

http://www.tckpublishing.com

And here is the author’s website:

http://www.phyllisjperry.com/

The Forgotten Girls by Lizzie Page

Description

Elaine was typing out letters from POWs and reminding herself that she would not cry. Poor Sam in Burma doubted whether he would ever see his children again. ‘Tell them they mean the world to me.’ Come on, Sam. Elaine wanted to reach out into the letter, hold his hand. Hang in there. If only he knew that she was half a world away, reading, listening…

London, 1943. German bombs rain down on London, but Elaine Parker knows her job transcribing letters from far-away prisoners of war is more important than her own safety. As she pores over each tearful letter from a soldier to his family far away, she’s not only making sure the notes reach their destinations, but also looking for secret messages hidden between the lines to help the allies win the war.

At home, Elaine’s life isn’t so simple. What the other clerical girls don’t know is that Elaine’s family isn’t respectable, and with her parents long dead, it’s up to Elaine to make ends meet. But with one brother increasingly in trouble with the law, and the other suffering a violent breakdown, it doesn’t leave Elaine much time to consider her own future hopes and dreams. 

And then Elaine meets dark-haired and passionate Bobby – a wartime photographer on the dangerous front line – and her world shifts. The uncertainties of war feel more personal than ever. Will Elaine be forced to choose between her difficult family and her growing passion for Bobby? And how do you let yourself love someone with your whole heart when each moment could be their last? 

A heartbreaking World War Two novel – emotional and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of Orphan TrainSold on a Monday and Before We Were Yours.

I enjoyed this story of WWII, though it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought that since the description highlighted the codes in POW letters that that would be a major point in the plot, but this was really a love story. Elaine is a working class young woman who falls in love with a famous war photographer, Robert Capa. This is the story of their relationship. It was an interesting read, but it was even more interesting after I finished it and discovered that these were all real people. I went online and found pictures of Robert and Elaine and some of the photos that are written about in the story. Their story is heart-breaking and memorable, and I highly recommend it if you like this genre.

Thank you for my ARC!

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Description

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High—the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle—and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Isobel Johnson has spent her career in Liston Heights sidestepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a liberal agenda, she’s in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Julia Abbott, obsessed with the casting of the school’s winter musical, makes an error in judgment that has far-reaching consequences for her entire family.

Brought together by the sting of public humiliation, Isobel and Julia learn firsthand how entitlement and competition can go too far, thanks to a secret Facebook page created as an outlet for parent grievances. The Liston Heights High student body will need more than a strong sense of school spirit to move past these campus dramas in an engrossing debut novel that addresses parents behaving badly and teenagers speaking up, even against their own families.

So – I read this book MONTHS ago, and I’m thrilled that it is finally celebrating its Pub Day this week!

As an educator, I love reading books that take place in schools, especially private schools. This was an easy to read story, very believable and realistic, that would have you laughing at times and cringing at others as the characters go about their very self-centered lives. You can see the trajectory of where things are headed! I really liked the ending, as I’m a true fan of the theme of redemption.

Recommended to those who like this genre. It reminded me a bit of Big Little Lies, but not quite so “gaspy” if you know what I mean. No big reveals, etc.

Thank you for my ARC to review!

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Description

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land…This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade

A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

I absolutely loved this tale of Odie and his friends as they tried to make a new life away from the orphanage that had mistreated them. It reminded me so much of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! However, there is a lot of mistreatment in this story, and part of Odie’s journey is coming to terms with the cruelty and unfairness that they have been dealt in life. The ending came with a sense of redemption, and I once again was enthralled with William Kent Krueger’s beautiful writing. Highly recommended!

I would also recommend this novel for high school English classes – so much to talk about and think about in it!

Thank you for my ARC via Net Galley!

2 for My Ears: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante

I love, love, love the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. I also loved the HBO series. I have gotten all four for my commute via audible (using credits) and they hold my attention. Hillary Huber is a beautiful narrator and I can see her in my mind’s eye as if she is Elena Greco from the HBO series.

These last two installments are the final chapters in the very large story of Elena and Lila. I like how each book ends and the next one picks up immediately. And they are long! Like 700+ pages long, so it’s impressive that they can keep me enthralled during my Boston drive.

Why do I love these stories? Honestly, I cannot tell you. They are about two girls growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood of Naples in the 1950’s. The writing is beautiful. It’s real, if that makes sense. Ferrante crafts a sentence that has you nodding your head and saying, yes, that’s right, and you’re thinking about love, friendship, betrayal, family – the ordinary stuff of life. These novels aren’t fraught with danger or mystery. Two girls grow up, one goes to school, they have friends, marry, have love affairs, have children, make a living, deal with life in the 1960’s and 70’s. But they are SO good and honest and true that honestly, it can hurt to read them (is that weird?). And at the end, I’m left feeling a little broken.

For My Ears: Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

Description (via Amazon) –

How much can a family forgive?

A profoundly moving novel about two neighboring families in a suburban town, the friendship between their children, a tragedy that reverberates over four decades, the daily intimacies of marriage, and the power of forgiveness.

Francis Gleeson and Brian Stanhope, rookie cops in the NYPD, live next door to each other outside the city. What happens behind closed doors in both houses—the loneliness of Francis’s wife, Lena, and the instability of Brian’s wife, Anne, sets the stage for the explosive events to come.

Ask Again, Yes by award-winning author Mary Beth Keane, is a beautifully moving exploration of the friendship and love that blossoms between Francis’ youngest daughter, Kate, and Brian’s son, Peter, who are born six months apart. In the spring of Kate and Peter’s eighth grade year, a violent event divides the neighbors, the Stanhopes are forced to move away, and the children are forbidden to have any further contact. 

But Kate and Peter find a way back to each other, and their relationship is tested by the echoes from their past. Ask Again, Yes reveals how the events of childhood look different when reexamined from the distance of adulthood – villains lose their menace, and those who appeared innocent seem less so. Kate and Peter’s love story is marked by tenderness, generosity, and grace. 

Narrated by Molly Pope, this was an intriguing and at times heart-breaking story of two families and the events and love that bind them together. Unforgettable and as tragic as it is redemptive, this is one that you won’t soon forget.

I got mine through Audible.

Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris

I really enjoyed The Tattooist of Auschwitz (though I am aware of all the criticism it received for being unbelievable), and I was excited to find Ms. Morris’ next novel, Cilka’s Journey on Net Galley. Cilka is a character from Tatooist and the story tells what happens to her after the war.

First I must say that I struggled with the first third of this book. I found it so violent and disturbing that I feared I might not be able to continue reading as I was having nightmares, but I figured that this was someone’s story and they didn’t have the option to “stop reading” so I should stick with it. Luckily for me, things became less graphic and I got really into the plot and characters. Cilka was an amazingly strong young woman, but I was left with such a sense of sorrow – as I often am when I read stories of the Holocaust – that her young life was upended and forever changed by the atrocities of war. I also had no idea that those who “collaborated” with the Nazis in the camps (though some had no choice) by being in charge of their bunks, being forced to have sex with guards, etc. were sent to labor camps after the war.

Recommended to those who enjoyed the first story (though this is a stand alone) and stories of the Holocaust.

Here’s the overview:

Description

From the author of the multi-million copy bestseller The Tattooist of Auschwitz comes a new novel based on a riveting true story of love and resilience.

Her beauty saved her — and condemned her.

Cilka is just sixteen years old when she is taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp in 1942, where the commandant immediately notices how beautiful she is. Forcibly separated from the other women prisoners, Cilka learns quickly that power, even unwillingly taken, equals survival.

When the war is over and the camp is liberated, freedom is not granted to Cilka: She is charged as a collaborator for sleeping with the enemy and sent to a Siberian prison camp. But did she really have a choice? And where do the lines of morality lie for Cilka, who was send to Auschwitz when she was still a child?

In Siberia, Cilka faces challenges both new and horribly familiar, including the unwanted attention of the guards. But when she meets a kind female doctor, Cilka is taken under her wing and begins to tend to the ill in the camp, struggling to care for them under brutal conditions.

Confronting death and terror daily, Cilka discovers a strength she never knew she had. And when she begins to tentatively form bonds and relationships in this harsh, new reality, Cilka finds that despite everything that has happened to her, there is room in her heart for love.

From child to woman, from woman to healer, Cilka’s journey illuminates the resilience of the human spirit—and the will we have to survive.