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.   

Last Things by Jacqueline West

5 stars Fantasy

I really enjoyed the author’s use of language in this book.  I liked how they slowly explained the events occurring, without revealing too much, letting me become totally immersed into the drama.  I could feel the intensity and the energy of this book which I didn’t put down until I had finished it. 

I also liked that there weren’t many individuals to keep track of in this book.  Reading this on vacation, I didn’t want to have to resort to keeping a lot of notes on it while reading it.  I found that, I got so involved in reading it, I forgot to write down anything about it except for the first few pages.

The book centers around a girl named Thea who moved to Greenwood and lives with her Aunt Mae.  Aunt Mae has a reputation around town as being witch, or perhaps a lunatic.  Yeah, not a good one to have.  Some think it’s because she’s a drunk and when she’s like that, she likes to talk.  Her talking is not pleasant either.  Aunt Mae tries to warn individuals about things that she has seen, things that haven’t yet occurred and that doesn’t settle too well with some individuals.  Aunt Mae doesn’t move much from the couch, she keeps her bottle close to her and Thea makes sure that her aunt has a fresh supply.  

When we meet Thea, it’s Friday night and she’s headed off to the Crow’s Nest to hear the band, Last Things.  It’ll be a mixed crowd of high school kids to heavy metal fans.  Last Things is a local band and they’re becoming quite popular.  Anders started the group and when he plays, he gets lost in his music just like their fans get lost when he plays on stage. They put on quite the show and lately, the place has been packed.  

Thea stays off to the side when she watches the group perform, she hasn’t missed a show, since she got in town. Back at Aunt Mae’s, Thea has been stockpiling items outside, taking great care to secure these items, hidden from sight.  Why she’s doing this, I have no idea but the idea that she doing this to “lock them out,” intrigues me. Thea attends high school, where she doesn’t really fit in but she watches and she’s aware of her surroundings.  She keeps an eye on Anders, he’s different than the guy who everyone loves on stage on the weekends. Is this a crush or it is something else?  Does Anders even know about Thea?  I was beginning to wonder what their connection was.

Thea doesn’t spend much time at home but when she does, she talks with her aunt.  Thea and her aunt have a bond with “them.” Thea feels that “they” are becoming bolder and closer and Aunt Mae understands this.  What they are talking about and how this all ties in with Anders was getting quite interesting as Thea’s behavior was getting stranger. I was all in and I couldn’t put this book down.   

Thank you to Harper Collins and Epic Reads Insiders   for supplying a copy of this book to me for an honest review. 

Here in the Real World By Sara Pennypacker

5 stars Middle School

I really wasn’t sure how I felt about this book until I was a few chapters in and then, well I loved this book!  Ware had just witnessed his grandmother being whisked off to the hospital and now his summer plans were ruined.  He didn’t want his parent’s Plan B for his summer, that is, until he found a tree.  Climbing that tree was the beginning of Ware’s own Plan B.

Ware’s parents had a goal for the summer and they immediately found an alternative plan for Ware when his grandmother could no longer care for him over the summer.  Ware didn’t want his parent’s alternative plan, and he was now, begging and bribing his parents to change their minds. In the end, nothing worked.

Plan B. Most everything looked the same as it did years ago, as the building appeared before him.  Ware knew he couldn’t live out the rest of this summer at the Rec.  This was daycare and he was now 11 ½, this place is not for him. I loved Ware’s attitude; at times, he acted older than he was yet there’s still that child within him.  Ware finds his escape during exercise class, when he spots a huge tree in the lot next door.  Believing that the tree would provide the perfect cover, he scales it.  How long can Ware hide up in the tree?

Ware had studied medieval times at school and he was becoming obsessed with castles, knights and various items from that era.  His plans at his grandmothers to build a replica were now cancelled but now sitting in this tree, Ware remembered the church that was on this lot. Shock came over him, as he noticed that the church had been destroyed and was now lying in pieces.  Ware notices a girl digging in the dirt, behind the church.  Trying to remain undetected, Ware creeps closer yet the girls spots him immediately.

Instantly, Jolene take control of the situation. She announces that this area is hers and that Ware needs to leave immediately!  I thought this was funny when I first read it.  It totally took Ware off-guard.  I wasn’t expecting Ware to fight back but he did.  He also took control.  He told Jolene that the church was his and her response…..well, she would just have to see about that. 

I liked how the two of them fit together.  Ware needed a space and the damaged church provided that for him.  Actually, it provided more than just a space for him to hang out but I’m not going to spoil the book for you.  Jolene needed the space behind the damaged church.  You might be thinking, what is Jolene doing? Well, Jolene is having some issues at home so she needs this space behind the church. They also needed each other, sometimes more than the physical space.  There are also problems because the lot has a sign on it and the sign means problems for more than just these two.  

Jolene and Ware worked hard and tried to transform the area that they were now trying to claim as their own.  I enjoyed reading about this and how they got along.  The references to the baptistry, the “do-over tub, the “sinner” tub, and the moat made this a fun book to read.

I loved how Ware alluded his mother each day when she dropped him off at the Rec.  Ware wanted to tell his mother what he was doing but he overheard her talking one day and he now knows, that he can’t. He then tries hard to be a knight and abide by the Knight’s Code that he has memorized.  I really enjoyed it when Uncle Cy and Ashley were added to the story, they were wonderful characters and I feel that they added a great deal to the story.  

What an excellent story, I really enjoyed it.  It was crazy good!  The ending gave me goosebumps as I was shedding happy tears.

“don’t ask to be normal- you’re better than that.”

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

5 star Graphic Novel

The cover of this graphic novel caught my attention while I was volunteering at the library and somehow, it made its way into my car. I love how these things happen yet; it pushes the other books I want to read further behind. A witch boy. The title was interesting as I always thought that boys who were witches were called warlocks, at least that is what I remember from the show, Bewitched. The illustration on the cover is fascinating too. The boy seems to be doing something secretive, crouching in a corner, candles burning, reading a book. That look on his face, it’s as if he’s been caught or hears something. Then, there’s that shadow peering down over him. Yep, that dragon doesn’t look like the friendly type.

Magic is in Aster’s blood. Boys grow-up to be shapeshifters and girls grow-up to be witches and that’s how it has always been. There’s a whisper amongst their family, about how one member of their family defied the system and the price that he paid for it.

Aster would rather spy on the girls and learn witchcraft than be a shapeshifter. He knows he’s not supposed to practice the craft, he’s heard what has happened in the past, yet this doesn’t stop him. He wants to see if he can actually cast one of the spells that he has overheard.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. The big text boxes with their bright colors, look amazing on the glossy pages. I was immediately draw in as this story moves quickly along as Aster temptation gets the best of him and he tries to cast his first spell.

Realizing that he’s now good at something, he needs to keep this a secret. I liked how he met Charlie and how they developed their friendship. I enjoyed how they fit together and that things didn’t escalade between the two of them. I loved how Aster continued to spy on the girls repeatedly, even though he kept getting caught. It was comical how persistent he was in learning more about witchcraft, all the while he was trying to be a shapeshifter.

The story picked up speed when one of the shapeshifter boys comes up missing and no one can locate him. Aster believes that he can find him BUT he must use the witchcraft that he knows, to do so.

It was a fun, entertaining read and I’m glad that it found its way into my car. I found out that this is a series, so I will be looking for the other books in this series.

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann

5 stars Middle School/YA

I also found this book while volunteering at the library and I’m glad that I picked this one up. Now, I know graphic novels touch on a variety of subject matter but this subject matter is a first for me in a long while (thank you, Judy Blume). As I read this book, the first thought I had was, where was this graphic novel when I was younger?

In this graphic novel, a small group of high school friends come together to provoke a change. Abby, the artist in the group, is preparing for the chance to have a display in an upcoming exhibit in the library. The show features feminist voices and activism. Abby doesn’t realize it but today, marks the beginning of her display.

The three girls find Sasha, a new student, in the hallway needing assistance. The girls immediately sweep in, take her under their wings like good Samaritans, and usher her into the bathroom. They’re nice and honest with her and they don’t leave Sasha until things are under control. It’s now that Abby discovers the injustice that marks the beginning of her art display and the movement that she leads with her friends. As Sasha tries to cope with what has happened to her, the girls try to resolve the issue(s) that they no longer want to ignore.

The three girls welcomed Sasha to their group immediately and they come together to try to change the way that their school handles an issue that has been ignored for quite some time. While this task is underway, the girls talk freely about menstruation. This talk is not restricted, they are very open and sincere, they cover quite a few important issues surrounding this topic, issues that aren’t just mentioned but provide great detail and meaning. I loved the honesty and the emotions that came through this graphic novel. No one held back as they provided feedback or told their own stories as each topic was discussed.

This is an important graphic novel, one that covers a subject some individuals find hard to talk about. Why, it’s hard to discuss? There are a lot of different reasons but in honesty, it’s a topic that should be discussed more openly and honesty. I know, they show the movies and have the discussions at school, but to have a fictional graphic novel that covers this topic, in detail like this one does, is fantastic! Kiddos, to the author for writing such a great book. I highly recommend it.