Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas

A poignant story of a boy picking up the pieces of his life after the unexpected death of his father, and the loyalty, concern, and friendship he finds in his small-town community.

Justin doesn’t know anything these days. Like how to walk down the halls without getting stared at. Or what to say to Jenni. Or how Phuc is already a physics genius in seventh grade. Or why Benny H. wanders around Wicapi talking to old ghosts. He doesn’t know why his mom suddenly loves church or if his older brother, Murphy, will ever play baseball again. Or if the North Stars have a shot at the playoffs. Justin doesn’t know how people can act like everything’s fine when it’s so obviously not. And most of all, he doesn’t know what really happened the night his dad died on the train tracks. And that sucks.

But life goes on. And as it does, Justin discovers that some things are just unknowable. He learns that time and space and memory are grander and weirder than he ever thought, and that small moments can hold big things, if you’re paying attention. Just like his math teacher said, even when you think you have all the information, there will be more. There is always more.

Set during the Gulf War era, Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened is a story about learning to go on after loss, told with a warmth that could thaw the coldest Minnesota lake.

I loved this heart-warming and touching story about a boy who’s learning to adjust to a very different life. It is touching and real and a great novel to share with middle grade and middle school readers. I got my ARC via Net Galley way back in September (thank you, Delacorte/Random House!) and have been waiting and waiting until almost Pub Day to share with you all! I think any time a child has to deal with the death of a parent it uproots their entire world. And Justin’s process of grieving and learning to live a life without his father is beautifully and sensitively portrayed in this book.

Highly recommended! One for the classroom IMHO.

Silent Lee and the Adventure of the Side Door Key by Alex Hiam

My friends over at Smith Publicity send me an electronic copy of the fun middle grade book (grades 4-8) about an intelligent and resourceful young girl, Silent Lee, and her adventures in time travel in Boston.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

As if life isn’t already complicated when you have to sneak out a magical side door and enter a different century just to get to school each morning.

And now Silent has to figure out what happened to her beloved Aunt Generous, the woman who raised her–which would be complicated enough even if CIA agents in black SUVs weren’t chasing her–but they definitely are!

This was such a fun read – especially since I live in the Boston area. Even though this title was a stand alone, I know that there are more stories about Silent Lee that are coming!

Thank you for sharing your book with me, Mr. Hiam!

Here is a bit on Alex Hiam, too:

As a child, writer and artist Alex Hiam spent holidays in the mysterious Boston mansion of his great-grandmother on Dartmouth Street. A graduate of Harvard College and UC Berkeley, Hiam was awarded the English Department’s Arnold Prize. But the honor he is most proud of was being entrusted as a student with the key to the iron gates of Mount Auburn Cemetery, where he would let himself in at dawn on Spring mornings to study the migrating birds before the rest of Cambridge awoke. Previously a teacher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, today he teaches Making Writing Exciting! at North Star, a learning center for self-directed teens. He has sailed the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, logging thousands of nautical miles and plans some day to write a book about pirates. Hiam lives with his wife and daughters in an old farmhouse in Amherst, Massachusetts.

This title publishes today – happy Pub Day! 🙂

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Description via NG

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!

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.

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.

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!

Description

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!