The Brave by James Bird

I absolutely loved this kids’ story about a boy with OCD tendencies who connects with his Native American heritage and befriends the unique girl next door.

Here’s the overview:

Description

Perfect for fans of Rain Reign, this middle-grade novel The Brave is about a boy with an OCD issue and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother.

Collin can’t help himself—he has a unique condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It’s a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father.

When Collin asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition.

Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.

This novel is marketed as a “middle grade” book, which to me means grades 4-8. I’d aim this book for Middle School as it has some serious themes in it: parental rejection, divorce, death, mental health, etc. In a way it reminded me of one of my favorite books for kids: Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson.

This was such a touching and honest read, and I couldn’t help but love Collin and Orenda. The ending made me cry. This is one that is definitely going on our MS Summer Choices for next year!

Thank you for my e-copy via Net Galley!

Here’s a bit on James Bird – an author who is new to me:

Biography

James bird is a Native American author from the Ojibwe tribe. He was born and raised in Southern California and began his writing career penning screenplays and directing films (Eat Spirit Eat, From Above, Honeyglue, We Are Boats). He met his wife, New York Times Bestselling Author Adriana Mather at a nightclub in Hollywood and together they moved to the east coast, where they both write books, rescue animals, and raise their son, Wolf. His favorite food is rice crispy treats and his favorite color is green. His goals in life are to be a great dad, one day open a vegan diner, and write enough books to fill up a bookshelf.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk – For My Ears…

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Wow.

Just wow.

I had heard about this book and read that it was a Newbery contender, so of course I thought, “I should probably read it.” (Reminder: I’m a reading specialist in a K-8 school). I hadn’t heard too much about this book except that it was a “good book” and “about a girl bully”.

This book is SO much more. You can read this book on multiple levels – which is one reason it is so good for so many ages. It is beautifully written. I got the audible version (which is beautifully done by Emily Rankin) and listened to it as I drove, but also with earphones by myself as I just didn’t want to leave this story.

Here’s the overview via Amazon:

Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

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I could devote an entire blog entry to the character of Betty Glengarry. Why was Betty the way she was? Did something happen that made her so dark within? What does her personality say about the animal that lurks within all of us?  (okay I’ll stop now).

I could devote another entry to the character of Toby, a PTSD sufferer who is somewhat reminiscent of Boo Radley.

But I won’t. (Due to my job/family/volunteer work/life my entries need to be completed in under 30 minutes!).

Take my advice and read this book! Share it with a young person in your life. Share it with another adult. Don’t let it be seen as just a “book about bullying”. This is a beautifully written coming of age story that has so many layers to it. Don’t miss it.

Kids/YA Review: TWERP by Mark Goldblatt

Another Net Galley find, TWERP is the story of Julian Twerski: a boy growing up in NYC (Queens) in 1969. Julian’s made a major error in judgment and has gotten suspended for bullying another kid (eventually revealed through the story). When he returns to school, his English teacher suggests that  he keep a diary of his life and events and tell the story of what happened through his own words (and if he does the journal, he gets out of writing a report on Shakespeare!).  Through Julian’s diary we get to know him, his pack of friends, his family, and what life is like for him. He’s a typical sixth grader with a slightly annoying but sometimes helpful older sister. His friends are a garden variety of boys who get into scrapes. He has a crush on a girl in his class (but so does his friend!). He even holds the title of “fastest kid in sixth grade”, but is finding that he might lose that honor this year. All in all, this book made for a great kids’ read: sometimes serious but often funny. I’d happily get it for our school library for our 4th-6th graders. I haven’t read Mr. Goldblatt’s other books (which are for adults) but you can tell he put his heart – and a piece of himself – into Julian’s story.

Thanks, Net Galley and Random House, for my copy!