Wrecked by her parents’ divorce and then her brother’s disappearance three years ago, Andrea Murphy’s life has grown awful. The empty seat at the table, her unrelenting guilt that her brother’s disappearance is somehow her fault, and his ghost in the boxes stacked in the garage all haunt her. “I’m fine” is the lie she tells to hide the cracks and holes in her heart. As a reminder of his memory, she carries a missing piece of her brother in her pocket. When the pain grows too intense to bear, she rides her bike far and fast, letting the breeze whip through her hair whileRead More →

Attracted to the bold, the risky, and the unknown, Hattie Darrow plays Don Quixote to Reid MacGregory’s role as Sancho Panza. Reid is content playing Hattie’s side-kick extraordinaire in pranks and at parties.  Where Reid is calm and reasonable, Hattie is spontaneous and daring; her energy luminesces around her.  From the time Reid met Hattie in middle school, Reid saw her potential and declared: “Being Hattie Darrow’s friend would make me better” (51). As the two are about to enter their senior year in high school, Hattie is still Reid’s social oxygen.  “Humiliation is a language [Hattie] doesn’t speak, and she doesn’t want [Reid] toRead More →

A story of resilience, Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. Baptist addresses the issue of homelessness from a child’s perspective. The Dunn family’s homelessness is brought on by the death of Isaiah’s and Charlie’s father, Gary Dunn, on November 24 due to a heart attack. Gary’s wife, Lisa subsequently falls into a debilitating depression accompanied by a bout with alcoholism. While his mother is incapacitated by grief, Isaiah is expected to watch and entertain his four-year-old sister and to keep up in school at Woodson Elementary.  This ten-year-old young man is forced to accept other responsibilities, as well.  Hoping to get the fundsRead More →

Consumed by grief, the Darrow family is broken, and nine-year-old Stanley is wishing with all his effort that some kind of magic will arrive to put his family back together after the death of his father.  “From the bottom of [his] flip-flops to the top of [his] Chicago Cubs baseball cap” (22), Stanley vows to find a way to make that happen. While searching for a solution, Stanley encounters a man in a green jacket who can make leaves dance.  When the mysterious man with a crooked grin shows up on the Darrow’s front step, Stanley wonders whether a male nanny (a manny?) can replaceRead More →

Somewhat like the choose-your-own-adventure books with alternate endings, Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore occasionally leaves the reader with the feeling of being lost in a maze, confused by the various plot twists and turns or coming upon a similar detail and experiencing déjà vu.  Although Cashore’s book is intended for linear, cover-to-cover reading, when the book’s protagonist, Jane, approaches an important choice, the reader follows her down that path to see how the decision plays out. The novel begins on a boat, with Jane travelling to Tu Reviens, a house on an island and a place of opportunity.  She had promised her deceased aunt MagnoliaRead More →

Actually, David wears the headphones to keep him from feeling anxious, to help him cope with his symptoms of highly functioning autism.  He also makes notes in a notebook, to learn social norms and social cues, to remember names, and to make sense of all the parts of the world that confuse him.  These differences and his predilection for honesty and disclosure often get him in trouble.  So, when Kit sits at his table at lunch, David is surprised. A month after her dad’s death in a car accident, Kit is looking for quiet, for a port in the storm of confusing emotions. Grief hasRead More →