Leaving Lymon by Lesa Cline-Ransome

4 stars Middle School

He’s a person, can’t anyone see this!  This book states that it takes places in the 1940’s but the story is all too familiar.  Living with his grandparents, Lymon has the stability, connections and the ability to express himself but that quickly vanishes.  When they’re no longer able to care for him, other family members step in and accept Lymon into their home but not everyone in the household is thrilled about having him there.

The only person who Lymon was wanting and needing was, the one individual who would just pop into his life, whenever they felt the need to.  You can feel the desperation in his voice and in his actions as they made their appearance and when they walked out, Lymon was again looking, looking for them everywhere.  Lymon has lots of questions but no one was honest with him. They liked to dance around the questions that he asked of them.   

When Lymon lived with his grandparents, his grandfather taught him how to play the guitar and this love united them.  This was a connection that he also had with his father, for his father did gigs and he always had another show.  I enjoyed this music connection and how the author used this throughout the story. 

This was a fantastic story and it was an emotional one for me.  Lymon needed some stability and he needed someone to be there for him but would he ever find it and who would that person be?  I think the ending was too perfect for me considering how the story was progressing and the characters. 4 stars   This is a sequel to Finding Langston.

“Daddy, when am I gonna see you again? Feel like I have been asking this question my whole life and never getting the answer I want. But I keep asking hoping for the answer I want to hear.”

The Bee Book by Charlotte Miler

5 stars Children’s Nonfiction

Let’s talk about bees.  What do you really know about bees and what do you think you know about bees?  I think that most people know that bees make honey and that there’s a queen bee, a drone bee and worker bees in a hive.  Did you know that there’s hundreds of drone bees in a hive and that they only live a few weeks?  Did you know that the queen bee typically lives 5 years and that she’s the mother to most of the bees in the hive? I thought the worker bees were busy, but the queen bee, she lays about 2,000 eggs a day!  Welcome to just one page inside this fantastic book by Charlotte Milner.  With the bee population dwindling, reading about these fascinating creatures made me realize just how important they really are. 

With bright colorful illustrations this book is full and I mean, full of information!!  Upon opening the book, there is a Table of Content which consists of a list of comments or questions pertaining to bees with a corresponding page number.  Thumbing through the book, I love just looking at all the different illustrations on the pages and reading the text that accompanies them.  Some of these are just fast-facts about bees and some provided more detailed reading but they’re not long reports on bees that slow me down or overwhelm me.  At the back of the book, there’s a great index too.  Did I mention how wonderful the illustrations are and how bright and colorful the pages are?

I can learn about pollination, why pollination is important, what a honeybee is, where honey comes from, and tons of information on the honeybee’s hives.  I can learn about the different types of bees that are needed inside a hive, why the bee population is dying and what I can do to help the bees survive.  I can also read about bee swarms which sound like a horrible thing but according to the brief summary, they usually aren’t.

This is a wonderful book.  It’s a book worth keeping and definitely, one worth sharing.  I’m sure that everyone will learn something from this book unless of course, you’ve been studying bees for years.  So, where does a honeybee store the nectar that it collects before he goes back to the nest?  How many eyes does the honeybee have?  Why does he have so many?   Can the female honeybee sting you?  Better get reading to find these answers.

Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt – He does it again!

5 stars Middle School FIction

And just like that, Gary Schmidt does it again!  A fantastic book containing two incredible main characters whose lives were meant to cross. As I was reading both of the storylines in this book, my mind was trying to figure out how the two stories were going to collide.  I had a feeling their initial meeting would be memorable.

Meryl Lee was attending an all-girl’s prep school, a school where she felt she didn’t belong.  Matt, he was living in an old lobster shack trying to keep to himself, helping out on a lobster boat.  Both of their personalities were similar and the road that life that led them both on, had given them similar tests, so it felt as if they were destined to meet sometime in their lifetime. 

Hollings car accident had left Meryl Lee devasted. Her parents thought that St. Elene’s Prep Academy for Girls was the answer that Meryl Lee needed to give her a fresh start but Meryl Lee isn’t so sure.  The school was geared more towards the wealthier girls and the social aspects of the school don’t match those of Meryl Lee.  It’s a difficult move for Meryl Lee yet she holds firm to who she is, as she’s called out for not following the prep school’s rules and her peers also see her as being different.  Meryl Lee is a great character and it’s interesting to see the school through her eyes.  Matt is a loner and the more that I read about him, the more I understood why.  The pieces of Matt’s history are slowly revealed in the book and at times, I was losing my patience as I wanted more.  He’s not had a typical childhood but as we start the story, Matt’s has a pretty stable life.  Currently, Matt has a job, a place to stay, and most nights, he has a playful competition of skipping stones down by the water with a Mrs. Nora.  Mrs. Nora took a walk one night down by the water and found Matt skipping stones and they started meeting up every night since.  Matt’s street smart but not book smart, yet.  Mrs. Nora decided that she wanted to educate Matt.  Mrs. Nora is the headmistress of St. Elene’s Prep Academy for Girls and yep, that’s how Meryl Lee and Matt came together. 

This book was quite the journey!  Following Matt’s history and the roads that he has traveled was quite an adventure in itself.  The book really took off when Meryl Lee met Matt.  I had to laugh when Matt was waving a hatchet in his boxers and then, my body was covered in chills and the words seems to be running all together as Meryl Lee hides Matt on the bus.  Dang, this book had my emotions all over the place.  There were a lot of fantastic moments in the book, parts where the words on the page touched something deep within me.  It may be set in the 1960’s but some things never change.  Pick this one up, you’ll be glad you did.  

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

5 stars Middle School

Sigh. As Langston made his way into the library, I felt that I could breathe again as he had finally found a place where he was safe.  The father-son duo left behind their slow-paced life in Alabama for the hustle and bustle of Chicago, searching for a better life. As father works, Langston attends school where his peers constantly bully him.  From his clothes, his shoes, and even his accent, the students wouldn’t leave Langston alone as he tried to adjust to his new surroundings.  I got emotional as I read this section as the students physically and vocally abused him.  His own classroom teacher even got in on the action, when they drew attention to his accent.    

I felt for the two of them as living in Chicago was so different from their previous life in Alabama.  When Langston discovers the public library, I was hoping this would provide some relief.  Would he find a room that he could study in, could he make friends with a librarian so he’d have an adult he could talk with, or might he meet someone new there?  In reality, Langston found much more there.  Langston’s first discovery was that this public library was different than the one back in Alabama. Langston was actually allowed to walk through the front door. This library allowed everyone, regardless of color to use its facilities.  It’s what’s inside the library that really changes him.  As he walks inside, up on the walls, so that everyone can see them, are famous black individuals.  Langston can’t believe he’s seeing them, on the walls. 

The librarian Mrs. Cook is a nice woman who helps Lanston discover what the library holds and what Langston has within him.  I felt this relief, a restoration working within Langston as he visited/thought about the library, for now with Mrs. Cook’s assistance, he had something bigger, a desire.  I really enjoyed this book.     

The Thing I’m Most Afraid Of by Kristin Levine

4.5 stars MIddle School

The cover doesn’t do this book any justice but since I’ve really loved a few of the authors other books (The Lions of Little Rock and The Paper Cowboy), I wanted to read a few of her other books.  Twelve-year old Becca is brilliant.  In my world, she’s gifted and Becca’s Doomsday Journals are a testament to this.  If you could ask her, she could pinpoint for you, exactly where she wrote down each anxiety that she has faced, in the numerous Doomsday Journals that she keeps.  And now, Becca is flying to Austria to spend the summer with her father.  Do you realize what this entails? I’m not sure Becca has enough new journals for this trip.

The characters inside this book were fantastic.  We have Becca, who needs to pack-up her anxiety, hop on a plane, and visit her father for the summer.  Wait, it gets even better because her father has a girlfriend with a son, Felix that’s about Becca’s age.  With the adults working during the day, they hired Sara to entertain the kids and take them on trips throughout the city.  I’m getting anxiety just thinking about this, so I can’t imagine what must be running through Becca’s head.  Becca’s mom is flying with her to Austria (thank you, mom) and then, mom’s taking a backpacking trip (I guess she won’t be easily available should Becca need her).  Wow, that’s a lot for Becca to process!

Becca doesn’t want anyone to know about her anxiety and she tries to hide it but obviously, she can’t.  As Sara tries to show them a good time, Becca’s hesitation and reluctancy shows.  When Becca comes clean, she realizes that she’s not alone but what’s next? Now that the three of them have come together, how can they move forward? 

I loved how they worked together and encouraged one another.  I enjoyed the inspiration, the motivation, and the friendship that they built.  Although they each felt alone with own challenges, they really had similar feelings that when they finally expressed them, they could worked together/help each other to find solutions.  Another great book. 4.5 stars

Shark Summer by Ira Marcks

4 stars Middle School graphic novel

What a great adventure! Gayle had led her team to the Championship but now, the star pitcher was nursing her wrist and reflecting back on that flyball that landed her in the emergency room.  With her mother’s dream on hold, Gayle’s shoulders felt heavy with guilty. Her mother would now have to seek employment at a hotel and the doors to the Black Cat Creamery would stay shut.  Gayle’s medical bills needed to be paid off before she could continue on with the store’s grand opening.

I liked how honest Gayle’s mother was, how responsible Gayle felt and how Gayle wanted to help remedy the situation.  Gayle being a teen, sees beyond herself while at the same time, she acts like a kid.  When Gayle comes across a flyer for a contest, she’s determined to win the cash prize, and she begins putting in motion, what she has to do to get that accomplished.  

To win this contest, it’s not as easy as it first seems.  In their effort to win, the small group discovers an old mystery which they attempt to solve……….

There’s a lot of activity in this graphic novel.  This being said, I think that they did a great job with the panels in this book.  They provided a variety of sizes to keep the story interesting and to keep the story flowing smoothly.  There’s just enough detail in the artwork and the color choice was on the darker side, which added to the mystery and drama of the story.  I enjoyed how this new group of friends worked together also.  

Alone by Megan Freeman

4.25 stars Middle School

I have to admire an author that can take me on a journey using verse.  The word selection, the sentence structure, the punctuation, everything about the story has to be carefully selected by the author so they can lead their reader on a magical journey.  Set in Colorado, Megan introduces us to 12-year-old Maddie, who thought she was going to pull a fast-one on her parents but unfortunately, in the long-run Maddie ends up paying the price for what she did.  Alone, is a fantastic book about a world in which Maddie finds herself alone in, which had plenty of emotions as Maddie tries to survive on her own. 

I think we all have done something like this before but now, it was Maddie’s turn to try it.  She was telling her mom that she was staying at her dad’s house and then, telling her dad that she was staying at her mom’s house. Her friends are telling similar lies. Goal: sleepover at Maddie’s grandparent’s empty apartment.  Sounds like a great time but her friends get caught lying.  Maddie is by herself at her grandparents’ empty house. There’s noise outside the apartment during the night, but she’s technically not there so she stays hidden. In the morning, with her phone charged, alerts and warnings pop up on her screen. Imminent threat? Alert? When no one picks up or returns her calls, Maddie races home.  What is happening? Why isn’t anyone picking up their phone or returning Maddie’s phone calls?

Dang! What Maddie found is not good! Cell phones abandoned and individual houses look like people left in a hurry?  What was so urgent?  Maddie found the neighbor’s dog George, so at least she has someone to talk to but everyone, and I mean everyone is gone.  Eventually, Maddie has to start looking for food and supplies.  Searching in other people’s houses Maddie finds other pets that were left behind, some alive and some dead, they have been trapped in their houses. The two of them seem to be making it but for how much longer?  When Maddie has a question, the internet is no longer an option nor can someone provide the answer for her so Maddie takes her questions to the library.  Maddie looks up her questions at the library and while she’s there, Maddie begins to bring back books with her to read.  I liked reading about her experiences with the library.

It’s Colorado and the days are getting shorter.  Oh, I hate winter and just thinking about Maddie and winter, gave me the chills.  There’s also no electricity so Maddie has this to consider.  Would she be better off just packing some stuff and traveling to another city?  A year has passed and Maddie still wonders “when” they will be coming back for her.  I wonder, “if” they will be coming back.

I thought Maddie’s actions were typical for someone her age and I was happy to see that she didn’t get depressed or angry about her situation.  She addressed it a few times but she knew that she couldn’t just sit around and wait for someone to come rescue her.  She had to actively try to get food and supplies for herself and her dog so they could stay alive till someone came.  For more than 3 years, Maddie fought the elements, from the weather, to food, to emotional, and onto physical factors.  From snow and horrible rain storms, to fighting for food and hunting for it, to anger and being scared, and also enduring physical pain and exhaustion.  I still had some questions at the end of the book about the whole emergency situation, why Maddie was left alone so long and I really felt that the ending was rushed but I really enjoyed this book and the author use of verse to do so.  4.25 stars.

“If a birthday falls in the forest

but there’s no one there to celebrate

do we still get older?”

“Loneliness and insanity

are twin houseguests

and

it’s hard to entertain one

without inviting the other in

as well”

In a Flash by Donna Jo Napoli

4.5 stars Middle School

Once I got onboard with the story, I enjoyed the journey that these two sisters took. I was having a hard time understanding some of the choices that their father made but I wasn’t walking in his shoes so perhaps I didn’t know the complete story.  I knew that he was trying to provide the best life for his daughters and money was key to this success but still, money can’t always be your driving force.  His daughters were wonderful and considering everything that they endured, their relationship emerged stronger than before. 

Papa accepts a new position in Tokyo, Japan, leaving his mother-in-law and the grandma to his two small children behind in Italy.  With a bump in salary, a 1–2-year commitment in Italy (that Papa feels will be sufficient), and other benefits for his children, Papa feels this is a great opportunity.  Enrolling 8-year-old Simona in public school, was a great financial decision until he realizes how important the private schools are, for helping foreign children learn the Japanese language.  Little Carolina is brought to work with him each day as she will have someone there, about the same age as her, that she can play with. 

It’s not all perfect in the beginning but over time, things change and the girls begin to love Japan.  It’s hard to believe but time passes so quickly and although Papa’s “sufficient time period” is over, Papa and the girls aren’t ready to go back home to Italy. I’m wondering now, should Papa stick with his 1–2-year time period?  Just because his children are not ready to return home, does that matter? Papa wasn’t doing anything fantastic besides what he was doing from Day #1 so basically life was just going on smoothly and the girls were settling in. Do you stay based on their opinion or go back?  Time to do more reading.

There had been talk of war but now, the realities of it were hitting home.  Papa is worried about Italy; will it be taken over? What will happen to their family and friends back home?  Pearl Harbor has been attacked by the Japanese and tension is mounting, elsewhere.  Hostility against foreigners is intensifying as the officials begin to gather them for relocation.  As Papa and his girls are rounded up, the girls get separated from their father. Now what?  They’re too young to be by themselves and I visualize Papa digging ditches or I don’t want to think where else Papa could end up at.  The girls never give up hope of being reunited with their Papa as they take on different roles to survive as the world, enters WWII.

Wow, I really enjoyed this book but I thought it was sad.  I liked how the sisters kept trying to find their father and how they accepted life.  I liked how they took on a variety of identities to survive and they didn’t let their emotions control their lives.  Their curiosity, bravery and support from each other helped them get through another day.  A very eventful book that gave me a different view of this time period.

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

4 stars Historical Fiction

So, how does one really become a ghost? I can’t imagine that everyone that leaves this earth, is sent in this direction.  Does Isaac come back as a helpful ghost or a ghost that has unfinished business to attend to?  A casualty of the Trail of Tears, Isaac narrates for us, how he became a ghost in 1830, while living in the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi, which I found entertaining and interesting.

Isaac begins his story as a 10-year-old child living with his family. His best friend is his dog which he does everything with.  Treaty Talk. When Isaac overhears his parents talking about the subject, he remembers that Treaty Talk and Nahullos go hand-in-hand, a serious situation for the Choctaw Nation.  Mother leads Isaac on a series of walks that day as he witnesses important events that are being held by his community.  Gracious!   What Isaac witnesses with his very own eyes is totally different from what his own mother sees, who is standing right beside him. Good heavens, Isaac is a young child and he sees this!?!  I’m with Isaac when he questions his mother about what he’s seeing, yet her response is not what I’d expect from his very own mother.  This Treaty Talk has a shattering effect on their town and the individuals inside it. 

I had a few questions as I read this book, perhaps it was because I analyzed what was happening too much instead of just going with the flow.  Why were some individuals shape shifters, some ghosts, some……?  Did that have to do with lineage?  Didn’t Isaac think it was strange as a child to hear a dog talk? Didn’t he once read in a book that dog’s go, bark, bark? Did he realize when he was little, that he was unique?  I liked learning about the Choctaw traditions and practices.  I enjoyed the relationships that Isaac built in the book and how he accepted his fate and assisted others.  There’s an engaging story inside this short book. 

“Choctaws never say “good-bye.” There is no word for it. We say “chi pisa la chike, which means, “I will see you again, in the future.””

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda by Tom Angleberger

4 stars Middle School

I listened to this book on audio and I really enjoyed the voices. I don’t know why I picked up this book, it must have been the title and the synopsis that lured me in.  I enjoy Star Wars but I can’t say that I’m a huge fan but I can say that I’ve known my share of students in school who stood out as being “different.” 

I thought Dwight was rather creative.  As the voice of Yoda, what advice does he actually give to those who call upon him?  What stake does Yoda have in the lives of the individuals around him? What a creative way for Dwight to find his way into the lives of his peers.  I thought the book was rather interesting and said a lot about Dwight.  Not having any illustrations to look at, I think that I processed this book differently than someone who actually read and looked at the illustrations.  Fun, entertaining, and short story. I highly recommend the audio. 4 stars