Sometimes a book comes along and I think to myself, “everyone I know needs to read this.”  Imagine my complete and utter delight when, last weekend, I read a pair of books coming out this Fall from Simon & Schuster that took my breath away, opened my eyes, and uplifted my hope for a better life.  And now I will have the opportunity to share these memoirs with you, book friends.  And you must pick them up and in turn share them with everyone you know; really, it’s that important. Honest, clear-eyed, and emotionally impactful, Some Assembly Required and Rethinking Normal are the memoirs ofRead More →

Adrian Black lives in Ashcroft, a small village in Northern England, during the Middle Ages when England is at war with Scotland and “the savage Scots are planning to invade again” (13).  Adrian, who is about to turn 13 years old, yearns to be a noble, a hero, and a master archer—a dream he believes can come true if he is a soldier.   However, because Adrian’s sister and mother both died in the plague, John the boyer, who is also Adrian’s father and afraid of losing his son as well, is overly protective. These are just a few of the challenges that Adrian faces.  OtherRead More →

YA Master Scott Westerfeld is back  this Fall with Afterworlds, a novel-within-a-novel, tightly intertwining a fully developed realistic YA romance with am equally robust spooky paranormal horror story, exploring the many ways in which our stories and our secrets define every aspect of our lives. 18 year old Darcy Patel’s composed-in-one-month paranormal horror story, Afterworlds, has been picked up by a major publishing house, netting her a $200,000 advance and the chance to put college on hold and move to New York City to be a “real writer”.  Naive, star-struck, and plagued with self-doubt, Darcy is not going to miss the chance at the lifeRead More →

In 1941, seventeen-year-old Zenji Watanabe is Japanese born in America, a Nisei, with the gift of language.  Colonel Blake sees that gift and offers Zenji an opportunity to travel from Honolulu, Hawaii, to places like Manila, but that opportunity comes with a price beyond the patriotism, strange excitement, and pay check valued by Zenji. With the code name Bamboo Rat and his bilingual gifts, Zenji is recruited as a low profile, military spy.  In that role, he learns the difference between civilian Japan and military Japan.  He also discovers the difficulty in befriending those whom he may have to betray and confronts the dilemmas in a country’sRead More →

Best selling fantasy authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare are launching a 5 book fantasy series for middle readers this fall with The Iron Trial.  In their introductory letter to booksellers, they invite us into their world where “a chosen hero, whose high and lonely destiny is to defeat the villain, whatever the personal sacrifice to himself… [who has] tragedy and secrets in his past, magical power” awaits us, but “we wanted people to believe they knew what kind of story they were in for.  And then we wanted them to be surprised…” Indeed, Black and Clare have succeeded in taking the now all-too-familiar conventions of children’sRead More →

A fearsome force, Susan McCallum is determined, ruthless, and in-charge, but she’s only ten years old and a girl—ineligible for military service during the World War II era.  When the brothers she idolizes, Hank and Theo, decide to serve their country in the navy, Susan is beyond angry.  Their typically stoic, Scottish father, who fears that he may lose both sons, forbids that they serve in the same branch of the military.  So, Theo joins the Army Air Corps, and the two brothers—the best defensive in-fielders in the game of baseball in Accokeek, Maryland—vow to play catch across the world, one aboard an aircraft carrierRead More →

Radiant.  Blinding.  Searing. Staring into the sun without eye protection will ruin your eyes.  Looking at a solar eclipse directly blinds you.  Seeing the reflection of the moon in still water enchants the soul.  All of which are also true when you read Jandy Nelson‘s latest  I’ll Give You The Sun.  Evocative prose, rich with finely crafted imagery, description, and metaphor; fully realized, flawed, and oh-so-human characters; gut-wrenching tragedy and heart-stealing love; and a dual narrative structure that moves back-and-forth through time and across perspectives combine to make you feel like you’re staring in wide-eyed amazement at whole sky full of stars. NoahandJude – it’s how the twinsRead More →

Nothing is going right for 11-year old Jarrett: he’s gotta pass summer school at an all-boys charter school if he wants to advance to seventh grade, and he overheard the teacher tell the principal she thinks he stupid and won’t pass; his best friend Ennis, recently back from his summer trip to see his dad in Jamaica, is acting aloof and strange; he’s scared to tell the girl he likes, Caprice, about his feelings for her; but worst of all, the most recent foster baby that his mom has taken in came to them with an older brother, Kevon, who’s Jarrett’s age and has takenRead More →

I don’t even know where to begin, exactly. Jacqueline Woodson‘s lyrical, exquisite, and lovingly crafted verse memoir, Brown Girl Dreaming, seems beyond my abilities to critique.  Poems spanning her birth in February 1963 through her fifth grade year take us from Columbus, Ohio to Greenville, South Carolina, and ultimately to Brooklyn, New York.  Born on the edge of the Civil Rights movement, Jackie’s childhood is framed by the Jim Crow south and the hope of the Great Migration, but its richness, texture, and heft comes from her beloved family: her grandfather Gunnar, called Daddy, and grandmother Irby, who raised Jackie and her brother Hope andRead More →