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.

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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Three for Christmas — from the Ho Ho Ho Readathon

I had a great time reading and participating in the Ho Ho Ho Holiday Readathon this past week! I set a goal of three books for myself, and I easily reached it (I also finished two more to review and started a third – guess I had time to read!).

The first book I read was A NEW YORK CHRISTMAS by Anne Perry. In this novel (and apparently Anne Perry writes a Christmas novel every year) it is 1904 and Jemima Pitt has accompanied her friend Phinny to New York from England for Phinny’s marriage. Poor Phinny doesn’t have much family and her mother left her while she was quite young under what seems to be mysterious and unfavorable circumstances. Jemima is hardly there when a dead body shows up – Phinny’s long-lost mother – and Jemima appears to be the main suspect in her killing (though with little motive). Determined to prove her innocence, Jemima joins forces with local policeman Patrick Flannery to figure out who the real killer is.

This was a fun read – and very quick for me (a few hours – less than 200 pages). Call me stupid but I never could figure out exactly WHY the murder took place and what it served. It seemed to stir up a lot of trouble, that’s for sure.

This was my first Anne Perry book, but she has a legion of fans and several other Christmas stories.

Thanks, Net Galley, for my copy!

Next I read CHRISTMAS TRUCE by Aaron Shepard. This was a children’s picture book that I got a pdf of from Net Galley. It tells the story of the WWI Christmas truce in fighting between the front lines of British and German men. This was a beautiful (and true) tale, with lovely illustrations by Wendy Edelson. Great for a read aloud to children!

Finally, from Blogging for Books, I got The 13th Gift: A True Story of a Christmas Miracle by Joanne Huist Smith. I just loved this book. This author lost her husband unexpectedly in the fall of 1999. They had three children, aged 10 to 17. That Christmas was incredibly painful and difficult for them. This true story tells how some unknown “true friends” delivered to them small surprise gifts each day leading up to Christmas and, in essence, helped them to feel the spirit of Christmas again. Not only was this a heart-wrenching read, especially because the grief was so poignant on these pages, but it was so inspiring to read the end and how the whole 13 gifts tradition got started, why, and how. What a beautiful and inspiring story — truly a favorite Christmas read for me.

Review: “The Widow of Saunders Creek” by Tracey Bateman

Through “Blogging for Books” I received a free copy of this book to review. “The Widow of Saunders Creek” tells the story of Corrie Saunders, a young woman recently widowed when her husband dies serving his country in Iraq. Corrie returns to her husband’s hometown and to the home they own and had planned to restore. Her husband’s family is still learning to accept her into the family and tensions are a bit high. Jarrod’s (her husband) cousin Eli, who is also a preacher, helps Corrie with work on the house; but as time progresses Eli worries that he is beginning to have feelings for his cousin’s widow. Meanwhile Corrie is still battling her grief and feelings of loss and begins to believe that Jarrod’s spirit is dwelling in their house. Will Corrie ever be able to move on with her life? And just what is going on in that house??

I have to say – I enjoyed reading this book, which combined dealing with grief, romance, and Christian elements. I found the supernatural aspect (the ghost in Corrie’s house) an interesting addition. Corrie dabbles a bit in local folklore and “craft” by trying to have a séance. She is guided by Eli to a relationship with Jesus. In some ways, this happened rather quickly and easily in the book (one minute she’s having a séance and the next she’s calling on Jesus). I also never quite figured out what the spirit in the house was, though Eli certainly thought it was a demon.

I would recommend this book to those who enjoy Christian romances and would not be bothered by the discussions of witchcraft/occult in the book.

Thank you, WaterBrook Press, for my copy!