When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson

5 stars Graphic Novel

I loved this graphic novel.  I could feel the dedication and love throughout this book.  I still get teary-eyed thinking about this graphic novel and the situations that these young boys went through.  It is such a fantastic book; I cannot say enough about it but I highly recommend that you read it.  Read it yourself, read it to your children, buy a copy for your classroom and even buy a copy and donate it to someone as this story needs to be told.

They used to live in Somalia.  Now, they live in Kenya, in a refugee camp called Dadaab.  Individuals who want to live come here from Sudan, Ethiopia, and other African area, this is home.  Dadaab is a huge camp, so large that they divided it into 3 separate camps.  Omar came here with his little brother, Hassan.  They’ve been there for seven years.  Yes, I said seven years!

Where’s their parents? Good question and one the boys want to know.  Who is taking care of them? Omar is taking care of Hassan as best as he can for a young brother.  He’s been missing out on school to take care of his brother. They’ve also been assigned a woman (like a foster mother) Fatuma, to help them. This woman was amazing too, she truly cared for these boys like they were her own.  Inside the camp, the boys have their own tent across the way from Fatuma.  Many days, the boys were hungry.  Hassan only says one word yet the brothers communicate. 

When Omar finally gets the chance to go to school, he is torn.  Leaving his brother behind, Omar worries for his brother yet he knows this opportunity for him will open doors for their future.  The boys still question their parent’s whereabouts and their village.  They wonder about returning home yet Omar knows the danger that lies outside the camp.

With bright, colorful illustrations and easy-to-read font, I was emerged into the brother’s story.  It was captivating, interesting, and powerful.  Omar fought for a better life, there were wonderful successes and moments of frustration and struggles yet he continued on. 

Fantastic graphic novel.  Definitely read the afterword that is located at the back of the book. I went through many emotions reading this book and I highly recommend it.    

All Your Twisted Secrets by Diana Urban

5 stars YA

The teens each arrived to their destination, following the details of the invitation that they each received.  They were looking forward to a fun-filled evening.  After all the years of studying, staying up late, and doing countless problems, they were finally getting their reward. Yet, as the teens looked around the room and did the math, they realized the numbers weren’t adding up. Then, someone noticed the something strange in the room and the note.  What kind of a reward were they getting tonight?  And who, just shut the door?

As they read the note, a more serious mood replaces the relaxed atmosphere that once inhabited the room. They had just one hour, one hour to pick someone to die.  Was this a joke?  Who would do something like this? Now what?

I liked the premise of this book as it sounded like something that I could really get into. In a book like this, I always wonder what I would do as I read what the characters were actually doing. It was interesting how the author chose such a variety of individuals to lock inside this room together but in the end, it all made sense.

The novel continues to switch from present to past tense throughout the book, to tell the whole story.  I wondered sometimes if it would have been a better story if just one of the characters told us the story from the past instead of having us readers switch back and forth.  I know some readers hate (I know hate is a powerful word) books that have the back-and-forth reading.  I felt in this book, that I was doing A LOT of switching back and forth, almost too much for me.  Did I like any of the characters?  Not really. There were quite a few of them to keep track of and I thought a few of them were self-centered.

I enjoyed the book and the twists that came with it.  After I finished reading it, I got to thinking, wow, this all happened in one hour!  They only had a one-hour time limit.  That sure was a ton of stuff to happen and think about in one hour.  The book addresses depression, suicide, and bullying.

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

4.5 stars Middle School

What a great book about what is not “normal” can be perfectly normal, if you allow it to be.  Armed with the notebook that her parents gave her, Bea finds that since her parents have divorced, life has become complicated.  Why can’t things be simple like they used to be, why must everything be so confusing now? Bea’s finding out that adjusting to change is hard.  Bea needs to discover, how to accept the changes in her life.    

When Bea’s parents announced that they were divorcing, they handed her a notebook.  Inside that notebook, contained a written, short list of items which they wrote to Bea, of Things That Will Not Change in her life, once they split up. Since then, Bea has added many things to that list.  It was nice to see the character of Bea reflect upon this list and to add her ideas to it.

Seeing a counselor, Bea also talks about her feelings and gets help managing her anxiety. Life is not the same since her parent’s divorce nor will it be the same ever again.  This will take some time to get used to for everyone involved.  What she has now, is a new family and that’s what she needs to understand.  I enjoyed the character of Bea as she was an honest, sincere, ten-year old girl just trying to adjust to the changes in her life.  4.5 stars

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

5 stars Middle School

 I inhaled this book today.  For five years, Coyote and Rodeo had been putting the miles on Yager, traveling wherever their hearts led them. Every day was an adventure with very few rules for the two of them.  I loved how the author revealed the character’s story to the reader slowly throughout the book.  The past and present are important to this story and the author combines the two of them to present a sweet, emotional story about family, friendship and love.

I really enjoyed Coyote’s mannerism and attitude in this story.  In her early teens, she’s still a child but trying to act older.  She wants to please her father but she also has her own needs and she’s trying to find a balance.   I had quite a few “ahh” moments while reading this book, as they struck a sweet spot inside me. 

This journey was remarkable.  The individuals that they met were fantastic as each of them played an important part in their trip.   When Coyote showed Salvador her favorite place, oh my gosh!  What a scene!!  Then, there was the violin scene!  The campsite scene! Come on……..I loved every one of them.  Be ready when you read this book for all the great scenes, they’re to be savored.  The last 20+ pages in the book, the words were all flowing together as the tears were falling down my face. 

Coyote and Rodeo have different ways of looking at the past and the future.  Living in the present is a good concept but the present is also made up of your past, if you allow it.   I really enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. 

Volunteering

I really loved Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. So, when I was invited to be one of the volunteers on my libraries Facebook edition of What Should I Read? I knew that I would talk about this book.

It was a book that I couldn’t put down till I finished it. Thought-provoking, emotional, and interesting, this book was exactly what I needed. I know that some of you will shy away from this genre but  if the synopsis or the conversation spikes your interest, check the book out, what have you got to lose. You might just find yourself another genre to love.  

One of the other books brought to the table, I have on my TBR pile and the other two really sound interesting.  I would love to read the BIG book but wow, that would take me forever!

I had a great time with this opportunity and I would love to do it again. 

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

5 stars YA

All the stars!  This book was breathtaking.  Perhaps, I just needed this book but there was so much that I loved about this book that this review cannot contain it all!  It was heartbreaking, eye-opening, captivating and enduring, and the way that the author put the story together was fantastic. 

First, I love how Elizabeth structured this story.  Told in verse, this story captivated me emotionally and mentally. Elizabeth paused in parts of her verse and I loved how these pauses made me feel.  They were dramatic, as the pauses felt sharp and powerful.  This book was hard to put down as I couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen next.  Told from two different viewpoints, there was no right answer, there was no clear winner.  I wanted both of the main characters to feel that they were going to be okay. 

It didn’t seem fair to neither of them what had happened but there was nothing that they could do about that now.  Their father was dead and they now needed to move forward.  Separated by miles, separated by years, separated by parents, the girls now needed to decide what their next steps would be. 

The writing in this book was terrific. This was an eventful and emotional story as the author described the events as the story unfolded.  I found many great scenes in the book as I was reading it. I could hear Papi favorite bachata songs, as they spun around on the record player, when they gathered to discuss his arrangements.  I could see his daughter’s reaction as she put these songs on, to remember her Papi. I could feel the family’s emotions as they heard the devasting news.  As each girl considered what to do next, I felt their confusion and frustration. I wondered how far they would take their relationship and how each family would feel about it.   I enjoyed how this book carried a mysterious element to it. It was amazing how using verse can enhance a story. 

You need to read it. I would love to listen to the audio of this one!   I highly recommend it. 

“For the rest of my life I will sit + imagine

what my father would say in any given moment.

+ I will make him up:

his words, his advice, our memories.”

Momentous Events in the Life of a Cactus

5 stars Middle School

This sequel was just as enjoyable as the first book in this series and I enjoyed hanging out with Aven as she began her first year in high school.  If you haven’t read Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus, you can still read this sequel, but I highly recommend that you read the first book, as you’ll enjoy this story more.

I liked how the author kept the characters real.  Their voices rang true to their feelings and they never sounded flat.  Each character felt important and their stories were important to each other.   They each struggled yet they didn’t lose all hope.

I remember seeing a girl in my high school who also, had no arms.  She was a few grades ahead of me and she amazed me.  I remember trying to watch her from a distance (I didn’t want to stare at her), as I just couldn’t believe that she was actually going to “my school!” This was in the early 1980’s and I don’t ever remember hearing a negative comment about her in fact, this girl was quite popular. She was also a great swimmer on the school’s swim team.  I think it’s interesting that after all these years of being out of school, I can remember this girl’s name yet, other individuals I saw everyday or hung out with, I can’t.  This unique individual, left an impression with me which at the time, I didn’t realize.    

This is a great book that I highly recommend.  If you haven’t read the first book in the series, I recommend you read that first, if you can.

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

5 stars Middle School

This book is about accepting what is life and creating your own journey. It’s about the friendships that are real, the ones that really matter and about appreciating these individuals. This book is about seeing the sun on a cloudy day. This was a book that was hard to put down.

Mark wants a courageous and beautiful life yet a fight has been going on inside Mark’s body for quite a while. Unfortunately, the war is winning. It’s now or never, as Mark decides to attempt one of his dreams. With his dog Beau accompanying him, Mark attempts to climb Mt. Rainer.

It’s an incredible journey: a journey of discovery and emotion. I would love to talk about the ending as it was incredible but I’m not going to spoil the book. I will say that the emotions that I felt, the character’s frame of mind, and their emotions, were the finishing touches on this fantastic book.

For Black Girls Like Me by Mariama Lockington

4.5 stars Middle School

It’s hard walking in Makeda’s shoes.  The body that occupies those shoes, misses her best friend that she had to leave behind, when she moved with her family this summer.  That same body, is stared at and harassed by her peers when she begins 6th grade at her new school.  That same body, feels that no one understands exactly what she goes through, not her mother nor her sister, even though they think they do.  That same body, doesn’t know who she is or where she belongs. The battles that Makeda faces are real, they’re typical of what’s happening in our world today and that’s important.  It’s looking at these conflicts through the eyes of Makeda, that makes this book significant.   

Makeda, is an 11-year-old African American girl who was adopted by a white family. Before they moved, Makeda had a best friend named Lena, who was also adopted. This connection, linked the two girls and they became very close to one another.  Now, Makeda feels as if she’s connected to no one and her connections with Lena are now long-distance.  It’s hard being a teen and moving into a new neighborhood but for Makeda, the situation becomes even more difficult when she’s questioned about her parents on the that first day of school.

Adoption.  Moving.  Racial tension.  Teen and school issues. Mental illness (suicide attempt).  How much more can an 11-year handle?

No one can walk in Makeda’s shoes.  Her situation is her own.  She’s unique and special but she doesn’t see it that way. She feels alone, isolated and hurt. 

This is an important book to read and I highly recommend it.    

Crossover: graphic novel by Kwame Alexander

5 stars Graphic Novel

This was fantastic!  You could really feel the energy and the emotions in this graphic novel which is an adaptation of the original novel with the same name.  I think kids will love this book.

This is not your typical graphic novel with text boxes, this graphic novel’s illustrations and text fill up the entire page.  Whether the page includes one illustration or four, it is the exact amount that is needed to get the point across.  With varying sizes of text, you will find yourself catching the rhythm of the book, as the story unravels. Using only shades of orange, black, and white, throughout the book, it’s amazing how captive you will become to Josh’s story.

You see, they were twins, Josh and Jordan.  Great basketball players who did a lot together.  Their father was a legend, on the court, many years ago.  Lately though, Jordan’s eyes have not been on the ball so much.  His eyes are on a girl and Josh feels ignored/left out/abandoned. Josh wants his father to intervene but his father won’t. Dad has some health issues that mom has been riding him on but dad says he’s fine.  I love the word play this couple speaks to one another. 

You can feel the energy soaring through the pages, the pain that’s growing inside of Josh, and witness the relationship that’s building between Jordan and his new friend.  The words were carefully chosen, they fit, they fit like a glove to make this graphic novel pulse.  

Then, he does it.  Josh unleashes his frustration and I hope that he feels better because everyone else doesn’t.  He’s done more harm then good and the repercussions of his anger, he’s paid a price for it. 

Excellent graphic novel!  Very powerful and is one that is definitely worth reading.