Beth's Book-Nook Blog

Reviews of What I've Been Reading….

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

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Winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren’t going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what’s going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

I loved reading this touching and memorable story about plucky Merci and her family. The portrayal of family and culture were so moving, and Merci’s navigating of her private school world should be required reading for many private school classrooms. If I had one less than positive thing to say, it is that the story felt a bit long for children. I loved it – but I’m a reader and I regularly read 300 page novels when I was a middle-schooler. This story deserves to be read by all children, not just those that will stick with it for the whole 300 pages.

Thank you so much for my review copy via Net Galley!

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Kids’ Choice: Marshfield Dreams and Marshfield Memories by Ralph Fletcher

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With my 6th graders, each fall we read MARSHFIELD DREAMS by Ralph Fletcher. This is a funny yet touching memoir of Mr. Fletcher’s childhood, growing up in Marshfield, MA, in the 1960’s. He has a large family (8 kids) and a host of fun experiences. Part of the joy in this book is in the simple details of typical family life, such as getting a new baby sibling or a first pet. Events are portrayed in language that kids and adults will both enjoy. Each fall the kids tell me that this is “one of the best books I’ve ever read!”.

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You can imagine my great excitement when I discovered that a sequel to Marshfield Dreams — MARSHFIELD MEMORIES — was published this past fall! I contacted Mr. Fletcher’s publicist and she kindly sent me a copy to enjoy and to share with my students. The Fletcher fun continues with more stories about boy scouts, the woods, sibling hi-jinks, and Ralph’s burgeoning interest in both writing and girls. I was thrilled to be transported back to Marshfield!

Highly recommended for readers in grade 4/5 and up. This was a great choice for reluctant readers in older grades. And adults will enjoy it as well! Thank you for my review copy of Marshfield Memories. My school purchased my copy of Marshfield Dreams through Amazon.

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The Path Divided by Jeanne Moran

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A few years back, I enjoyed reading Jeanne Moran’s children’s novel Risking Exposure (see review here). I was thrilled to hear from her about reading and reviewing her next title in this series: The Path Divided. The Path Divided continues where Risking Exposure left off and tells the rest of the story of Rennie, Sophie, Werner, and Erich. Moving from the present years to WWII, we see the rest of the story for these four teens in Germany.

I truly enjoyed this story, and while it is sad, it drives home the point that the choices we make in life, and their consequences, are ours to keep.

Thank you so much for an e-copy to review, Ms. Moran!

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Every choice has a consequence.

When a magical picture frame reveals the danger facing a teenage traitor, her best friend hatches a plan to sneak her out of Nazi Germany. Options are few. Choices are desperate.

Decades later, an aged Nazi hiding under an alias plans to die with his secrets intact. Confronted with his role in the fate of his sister and her best friend, he must decide: maintain his charade or face the consequences of the path he chose so long ago.

In this powerful conclusion to Risking Exposure, interwoven tales of guilt, sacrifice, and hope crack the divide between personal safety and loyalty to those we claim to love.

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Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo

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Those of you who love Kate DiCamillo and her “Raymie Nightingale” will remember Louisiana Elefante. In this middle grade novel, the next chapter of Louisiana’s story is told. This was a quick read with a very distinct narrator’s voice (I don’t think Louisiana ever speaks with contractions), and while it was sad (the child is basically abandoned – twice), it has a sweet ending with a theme of accepting yourself for who you are.

I’ll be sure to recommend this one to our school library. Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

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Never Odd or Even by John Townsend

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Sent to me by the Incorgnito Publishing, this middle grade novel was a fun and fast read, akin to “Curious Incident…” but without the emotional wallop. Eliot is a wiz with numbers and is always thinking of them and how they relate and how you can find patterns in the world, and he shares some of his “laws of numbers” within the story. Eliot is bullied, though, and this is essentially the story of how he used his superior intellect to fight back and to solve the mystery of who stole a large sum of money at his school.

This was a very quick read – 100 pages – and I could see it used in class with grades 4th and up. It was fun to read through the numbers info and play with numbers like Eliot did!

You can find it on Amazon.

Thank you for my review pdf!

 

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Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

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I loved this memorable and touching children’s story about a little girl who lives in a graveyard in the Philippines with her mother and her struggle to find her mother when she goes missing. Appropriate for grades 4 to 7, in my opinion, it sensitively tells Nora’s story while focusing on themes of friendship and loyalty.

I was fascinated with this idea of living in a cemetery, and here’s a great article with pictures in it from the New York Times about North Cemetery in Manila, where this story takes place.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my review e-copy! This title publishes in the beginning of October (2018).

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Two Spells by Mark Morrison

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Sarah and her twin brother Jon are heirs to an ancient magical realm and its most valuable treasure, an enchanted library. The library endows readers with the supernatural means of crossing into the uncharted inner-sanctum of the second dimension, inhabited with peculiar and sometimes perilous creatures.

The children are emboldened with a wondrous mystical gift that no other being has ever possessed. But fate intervenes and triggers a disastrous inter-dimensional war that disrupts the fabric of time and space spanning multiple universes, tearing destiny a new and savage pathway.

The two must rescue their world from a phantom hybrid alien race controlled by a demented dark-wizard, Jeremy Sermack. They will either assimilate or be exterminated.

Will they be the saviors the prophets spoke of, or will they retreat to the perceived safety of their distant homeland?

 

I received a pdf of this novel from the very pleasant author, Mark Morrison. My daughter, who is 14 and loves fantasy, was my reader for this one. She loved it! She read it straight through in a few days as she couldn’t put it down. She liked the storyline and the characters a lot.

This is Mr. Morrison’s first novel for YA/kids, so we hope it won’t be his last!

Here is a bit about him via Amazon:

Biography

Mark was born number seven of eight children in a small town in Ohio. His family moved to Florida where he grew up, met an incredible woman, got married and raised four fantastic children, three boys and a girl.

Many years later, an empty nest left him to his true calling, storytelling. His first remarkable story is about a heroine whose courage and unrestrained personality—like his daughter’s—breathes passion and fervor into this adrenaline-packed story.

 

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THE CLUE IN THE TREES by Marji Preus

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IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE by Christina June

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Net Galley has a section where you can “wish” for a book — it’s not readily available for request or to all audiences. Well I wished and got this one – and I’m so happy I did! While this is billed as a “Cinderella story”, I found it to be a well-written and insightful YA novel about a teen girl dealing with coming of age issues. I’ll be recommending it to my 14 year old and to my middle schoolers.

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Thank you SO MUCH for making me part of the “wishes granted” group. I feel like Cinderella!

You can find this book at your local library or favorite indie — or online at Amazon, where I am an Associate:

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Armstrong and Charlie by Steven B. Frank

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I loved this thoughtful kids’ book about two boys in 6th grade and their friendship. Sensitively covering issues of race, grief, class, and peer relationships, this little book has a lot of punch packed between its pages. Highly recommended for middle grades – I’d love to use it with my own students next year!

Thank you for my e-copy which  I got through Net Galley.

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