More than an adventure story, The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas is an earth (space) science lesson as well as a grief healing journey.  Overwhelmed by the pain of loss, eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez narrates her story to her deceased father, whose “missing you feeling” follows her everywhere.  With the Voyager 2 launch date only months away, Stella is desperate to visit with Carl Sagan who might send something into space for her on his Golden Record.  On her way home from the failed attempt, she encounters big needy eyes, “eyes that shimmered and seemed to have tiny galaxies insideRead More →

Maverick Falconer is the world’s lamest super-hero, in his estimation.  At age eleven, he’s small, weak, near-sighted, prone to allergies, and possesses an anti-dollar forcefield.  But none of those shortcomings deter Maverick from his goal: Doing good deeds, righting wrongs, standing up against evil, and protecting anybody who is small or weak. When Maverick was three, his military firefighter dad, died, leaving Maverick alone with an alcoholic and neglectful mother who dates a string of abusive men.  The only stable person in his life is Aunt Cat, who is as wild as her name.  But she loves, defends, and protects Maverick.  Wanting to live inRead More →

Three stories told, three countries represented, and three lives profiled.  Despite the years that separate them, the trinity of humanity featured in Alan Gratz’s novel Refugee experience remarkable and horrifying similarities with intersecting conclusions. Imagine feeling unwanted, dirty, and illegal.   Imagine hearing sirens, soldiers, shouting, gunfire, breaking glass, and screams daily.  Imagine thinking that if you want to live, you have to leave your homeland and all that is familiar.  These are the realities of three refugees and their families: Josef Landau, a barely thirteen Jewish boy living in Germany in 1939 under the reign of Adolph Hitler; Isabel Fernandez, a pre-teen Cuban citizen enduringRead More →

Here’ the dirt on Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein: Eleven-year-old Yonder attends Robert Frost Middle School in Vermont, where her classmates are “just dumb losers with mean mouths full of empty words” (5). After her mother dies, Yonder screams and yells for her mother to come back but realizes that words don’t work, so she stops speaking since “silence seems safer.” Yonder’s father masks his grief and fills the empty void with alcohol: “My father drank and drank and drank and didn’t really know how to be a regular father at all” (48). Despite his sobbing and his littering the floor with beer bottles, YonderRead More →

Although a work of fiction, A Promising Life by Emily Arnold McCully reads like nonfiction with its rich history of the early 1800s and its biographic-like details.  The novel tells the story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, born among explorers on the Lewis and Clark Expedition to Toussaint Charbonneau and Sakakawea.  Half French Canadian and half Shoshone, Baptiste is métis American, but he finds himself caught by social circumstances that don’t wholly accept him.  Called Pompey, or Pomp, which means “the promising one,” Baptiste is favored by William Clark, so when his parents leave him in Clark’s care and travel upriver from St. Louis to aRead More →

Death has a different impact on us all. Some drown in sorrow and others simply go numb. When Toby’s best friend Lucas dies, he blames himself for the accident that killed him. Toby’s form of grieving involves fulfilling a promise, though. Toby and Lucas had made The List, a collection of fun things that they wanted to do together before the end of summer, a sort of bucket list. The List includes things like going fishing, building a treehouse, and eating a worm. The last thing on The List is to “Hike the Appalachian Trail, from Velvet Rocks to Katahdin” (19). After Lucas dies, TobyRead More →