Monday, November 9, 2015

with all my heart and then some

This weekend I read House Arrest by K.A. Holt. I love novels written in verse, and this story about 12-year-old Timothy did not disappoint.  It was amazing.

Here's an excerpt from the jacket cover:

Stealing is bad.
I know.
But my brother Levi is always so sick, and his medicine is always so expensive.

I didn’t think anyone would notice,
if I took that credit card,
if, in one stolen second,
I bought Levi’s medicine.

But someone did notice.
Now I have to prove I’m not a delinquent, I’m not a total bonehead.

That one quick second turned into
a judge
a year of house arrest,
a year of this court-ordered journal,
a year to avoid messing up
and being sent back to juvie
so fast my head will spin.

It’s only 1 year.
Only 52 weeks.
Only 365 days.
Only 8,760 hours.
Only 525,600 minutes.

What could go wrong?

This is a beautiful story about empathy and pride and sacrifice and family and devotion and choices ... and one domino falling on another and another, with seemingly no end in sight.
Boys don't write in journals,
unless it's court-ordered.
At least, this is what I've figured. 

Middle grade and young adult readers will love Timothy and I am so excited for them to read this story. The book is Timothy's court-ordered journal. His voice is authentic and he has a huge heart.

We're fine. 
Please don't worry. 
It's not like we live in a cave in China. 
Or a hut in Africa. 
It's not like there are flies circling my face. 
Or clods of dirt caked on my feet. 
We have enough. 
We're OK. 
Please, Mrs. B, don't talk about social services again. 
We're doing our best. 
We're fine.

Life throws a lot at Timothy and we get to process emotions and learn right along with him. Readers will be able to relate to how good people can get caught in bad systems. It is hard to show others how deep your sorrow can go, or how immediate your family's need really is.

One year ago. 
Like one of those machines 
where the ball falls in a bucket 
and knocks over a bottle 
that lights a match 
that pops a balloon 
that scares a chicken 
who lays an egg 
that cracks in a pan 
and makes your breakfast for you. 
One year ago it all started. 
One year ago I made this crazy meal 
that I am still eating.

I loved this book with all my heart and then some. 


Friday, September 25, 2015

It is magical and matter-of-fact

If you know any early elementary school students, this book would be a wonderful read-aloud.

If you know a 4th, 5th or 6th grader, this book would be a wonderful addition to their reading collection.

If you know a middle grade or young adult reader, they will love this charming book.

If you know a human who has ever struggled, this is the book for you.

Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate is beautiful, brilliant, and lovely.

Ten year-old Jackson and his imaginary friend, Crenshaw navigate the fine line between making it in the world and not. Jackson's family has fallen on hard times. Anyone who reads this story will rethink what it means to 'fall on hard times' and how they can help others. Readers will see how very, very thin the line between making it and not can be.

This book handles homelessness and hunger and illness and asking for help and telling the truth and coping with loss and being a family. It is magical and matter-of-fact, and readers will love it.

A beautiful spin-off created by the book is #CrenshawFoodDrive. Bookstores and schools can participate in food drives nationwide. For details, checkout

Be honest with kids; they have amazing ideas...

Monday, September 21, 2015

with words. with truth.

Many high school and college students are reading Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. For an excerpt check out this article in The Atlantic or my post on Samaritan Blog

If you or a student you know has read Between The World And Me and is looking for a like minded book that's an easier read...  or if you have a middle grade reader who is interested in what it means to be black in America, be sure to read X: a Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz. X is a fictionalized account of Malcolm X's youth.

Written by Malcolm X's middle daughter, X is a historical fiction novel that highlights racial injustice. It is a perfectly timed book for young people today. With students' lives overlapping with the racially charged deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City, it is the perfect time to take another look at the life of Malcolm X.  This is a brilliant story of the self creation of Malcolm X, and what it means to fight against what is wrong in the world.

"I'm not meant to be part of the things that are wrong with the world, but neither am I meant to run from them. I'm meant to fight against them. I can't hold my own in the ring, but out in the world, I do know how to fight. With words. With truth."

Friday, September 11, 2015

readings and conversations

If you are in Boise on October 6th for The Cabin's exciting kick-off event of the Readings and Conversations 2015-2016 season, look for my silent auction book basket at the gala dinner and auction.

It's a great collection of middle grade books to inspire and engage young adult readers (if I do say so myself).

The money raised from the silent auction directly supports some awesome Cabin programs including "Writers in the Schools" and "Summer Writing Camps".  If you can't make it to The Cabin event but would still like to check out these amazing books, stop by The Library!

Here's a list of the titles:

Hidden by Löic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano, and Greg Salsedo

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L Holm and Matthew Holm

El Deafo by Cece Bell

The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

George by Alex Gino

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley

My wish for you: Happy Reading, Creative Writing, and Inspired Conversations.


Friday, September 4, 2015

the Churchill Club... most were ninth-graders

This is a fantastic, narrative nonfiction book filled with amazing primary source information!

This school year appears to be all about reading nonfiction. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose is a book I will recommend eagerly this year.

We spent part of our last two summers in Copenhagen, so this book became a clear choice for a nonfiction read.

From the jacket...
At the outset of World War II, Denmark did not resist German occupation. Deeply ashamed of his nation’s leaders, fifteen-year-old Knud Pedersen resolved with his brother and a handful of schoolmates to take action against the Nazis if the adults would not. Naming their secret club after the fiery British leader, the young patriots in the Churchill Club committed countless acts of sabotage, infuriating the Germans, who eventually had the boys tracked down and arrested. But their efforts were not in vain: the boys' exploits and eventual imprisonment helped spark a full-blown Danish resistance. Interweaving his own narrative with the recollections of Knud himself, here is Phil Hoose's inspiring story of these young war heroes. 

The Boys Who Challenged Hitler will inspire young readers to stand up for what they believe in, to use what they know to make a difference, and to do what they can regardless of their age. 

What more can you ask of a book? 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sunny Side Up

I loved this graphic novel! Sunny is 10 years old in 1976, and I loved being able to time travel so brilliantly back to my childhood.

From GoodReads:
"Deceptively simple but packed with heartfelt and complex relationships. Sunny's reactions to all the things going on around her ring true and the exploration of a difficult topic is done appropriately for the reader's age. This is a gem."

It's a great story about the struggle of addiction, the idea of heroes, and how we can be hurt by others but it's not our fault.

This graphic novel is perfect for readers facing hard truths and complex relationships involving substance abuse.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Sir Stinks-A-Lot

Captain Underpants is the most banned book in America... and the newest book, The Sensational Saga of Sir Stinks-A-Lot has just been released. It is a comic masterpiece that Captain Underpants' millions of fans will enjoy. I know I loved it!

Even if you've never read a Captain Underpants book, you should give this one a try. The beginning of this book gives you a brief summary of what went before so you won't be lost.

I love how Dav Pilkey pokes fun at grown ups who have forgotten what it's like to be a kid. And how he has brilliantly embraced his 'haters' who are offended by the language and misbehavior of George and Harold. 

But, in this book especially, I appreciated the brief time travel to George and Harold's future selves. I loved seeing how their beautiful adult lives had unfolded.

So, embrace your freedom to read and read America's most banned book. Get this book for all the reluctant readers you know who are bored by school. It will be revolutionary!