Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Middle School, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Click’d: Coding, apps and friendship drama!

Click’d (Code Girls #1), by Tamara Ireland Stone, (Sept. 2017, Disney-Hyperion), $16.99, ISBN: 9781484784976

Recommended for readers 8-12

Sixth grader Allie Navarro is SO excited about the friendship app she built at CodeGirls summer camp. Click’d collects data about user interests and sends users on a scavenger hunt to find other users with similar interests. It went over big at camp, and now Allie is going to show it to her BFFs at school. She’s also presenting her game at the big Games for Good competition, but she’s going up against her nemesis: Nathan Frederickson, who wins EVERY science fair and drives her crazy.

The app goes over in a big way, but it’s not as great as Allie thought it would be. People are upset about their standings on friendship leaderboards, and a technical glitch ends up embarrassing one of her best friends. Things start spiraling out of Allie’s control; even with Nathan’s help, she’s not sure if she can make things right in time for the competition.

I’m excited about the new coding fiction trend that’s emerging in light of Girls Who Code’s nonfiction/fiction releases! Click’d is great to hand to readers who may be ready to move on from the Girls Who Code series fiction, or readers who may not be ready for Lauren Myracle’s TTYL books just yet. There’s friendship drama for sure, as well as positive messages about resilience and friendship. Each chapter contains screenshots of the Click’d app, adding to the fun; readers can watch Allie’s user count change, and monitor different leaderboards to better envision how the app works (and maybe get some ideas of their own). Tamara Ireland Stone gives us realistic characters and an interesting storyline and builds an extended universe of CodeGirls – girls who all met through a Girls Who Code-type camp – that will work for future novels.

Make sure to check out the Click’d teacher’s guide on the author’s website!

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Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Diversity Reading Challenge 2017 – Checking In

This year, I accepted The Unconventional Librarian’s Diversity Reading Challenge, and I’ve been… okay. Let’s take a look:

(The center Diversity Reading Challenge 2017 graphic is from An Unconventional Librarian’s website.)

Book featuring a Hispanic character – Wild Beauty, by Anna Marie McLemore

Book featuring an LGBTQ character – Spinning, by Tillie Walden

Graphic Novel – Pashmina, by Nidhi Chanani

Book featuring a character with mental illness – Lighter Than My Shadow, by Katie Green

Book featuring an Asian character – Warcross, by Marie Lu

Book by an illustrator of color – Nina: Jazz Legend and Civil Rights Activist Nina Simone, illustrated by Bruno Liance

Book with an African-American young male character – Goodnight, Boy, by Nikki Sheehan

Book with an African-American female character – An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

Book with a Muslim character – Lost Boys, by Darcey Rosenblatt

Book with a character on the Autism spectrum – Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, by Ben Hatke

Book featuring a character with a physical disability – Super Max and the Mystery of Thornwood’s Revenge, by Susan Vaught

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my reading, but it could be better. I see little spots where I need to read more deeply. Goodnight, Boy is amazing; brilliantly written, but I should also be reading African-American characters written by African-American characters. I need to finally get Ghost, by Jason Reynolds, off the TBR and on my nightstand, you know? Ditto for my Muslim character choice. I love Lost Boys; it’s a heart-wrenching novel that darn near brings me to tears, but I need to stop saying I want to read Amina’s Voice and just read it. (If you’re struggling to find Muslim authors, by the way, I found a list on GoodReads that may help.)

I am happy that there’s some crossover on the list. I have several graphic novels on the list; while reading graphic novels is never an issue for me, I’m happy to see that the medium is a great place to explore different cultures and identities. Spinning, Lighter Than My Shadow, Pashmina, and Mighty Jack and the Goblin King are all graphic novels; each is its own journey of exploration. Wild Beauty and An Unkindness of Ghosts have female, main characters of color that explore their sexuality.

In sum, I need to read one more book (a Holocaust victim) to complete my challenge. Pragmatic Mom has a list that I think I’ll use as my guide here. Milkweed, by Jerry Spinelli, sounds compelling; it may also be time to to finally pick up Jane Yolen’s Devil’s Arithmetic.  I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, thanks to Pam at Unconventional Librarian for keeping me honest.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction

A Chesapeake Fable: Wind and Oyster Jack

Wind and Oyster Jack, by Marcia G. Moore/Illustrated by Heather Crow, (Nov. 2017, Schiffer Publishing), $14.99, ISBN: 9780764354229

Recommended for readers 6-10

Oyster Jack is a Chesapeake Bay waterman, out on his boat, Dinah, harvesting oysters. Their friend, Wind, helps them by lifting Dinah’s sails and allowing the boat to move. The weather is getting chilly, though, and Wind is cold. She asks Oyster Jack to share his coat and his blanket, but he can’t – he needs them for himself! – so Wind goes off to find a coat of frost, and a blanket of snow, that she hears about on Jack’s radio. They don’t fit Wind, and Oyster Jack and Dinah are stuck without Wind. Finally, Oyster Jack comes up with a solution that will make everyone happy.

This sweet story, set in the Chesapeake Bay area, is a nice way to introduce different areas of the States to readers, and a good way to talk about the different careers that flourish in different areas and environments. There’s an explanation of the skipjack – the type of boat watermen use when they go out harvesting – at the end, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a good section on the area’s geography and facts; the Maryland Sea Grant website has a section on the oyster trade and current restoration efforts. The narrative sounds much like a modern-day fable, with the Wind interacting as a living being with Oyster Jack; the resolution explains the windsock’s origin.

This is a text-heavy story, making it a good choice for older readers who can process deeper and longer text. The artwork appears to be watercolor and has an Impressionist feel. The wind has a visible face, and breathes in swirls that cascade through each spread. The light glimmers on the water, and the snow softly blankets the town. Most pages are full-bleed; a few exceptions for large blocks of text are plain, bright white. Bunches of oysters set the tone on the endpages.

If you want to introduce readers to the Chesapeake Bay area, this is a good place to start.

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Supernatural thriller: We All Fall Down

We All Fall Down, by Natalie D. Richards, (Oct. 2017, Sourcebooks Fire), $10.99, ISBN: 9781492654384

Recommended for readers 13+

Part fated romance, part supernatural thriller, We All Fall Down is the story of Theo and Paige; two friends who are haunted by a night on an old bridge, where an argument between Theo and another classmate turned into a fight; Theo took a swing, but it was Paige who was injured.

Four months later, they’re each trying to move on, but something at the bridge refuses to let them forget. Paige and Theo must work together to stop whatever energy is coming from the bridge.

I had higher hopes for All Fall Down, to be honest. It’s an interesting look at two characters with varying mental illnesses – Theo claims to have “ODD, ADHD… I’ve got to be forgetting some letters here”, and Paige suffers from severe anxiety. The story didn’t really need a supernatural element added to it to be compelling; Natalie Richards had great material to work with, had she gone deeper into the characters, their relationship, and the repercussions of the night Paige was injured. It’s an interesting thriller that started strong, but could have been unputdownable with just a slight change in focus.

Posted in Science Fiction, Tween Reads

Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Children of Exile series heats up with Children of Refuge

Children of Refuge (Children of Exile #2), by Margaret Peterson Haddix, (Sept. 2017, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1442450066

Recommended for readers 10-14

The second book in Margaret Peterson Haddix’s new series, Children of Exile, is told from Edwy’s point of view. He’s Rosi’s friend and a fellow Fredtown refugee; brought home with the rest of the children and smuggled by his crime lord father into Refuge City to stay with his brother and sister while the violence in his hometown, the Cursed Town, settles down. His brother, Enu, and sister, Kiandra, have no interest in him: have no interest in anything other than the money their father keeps sending, so they can live as they please. Edwy tries to acclimate to life in Refuge City, but can’t get Rosi out of his mind. And when he discovers that Rosi – still stuck in Cursed Town – is in serious danger, he knows he has to act, and that he needs help from his siblings to save Rosi.

I loved Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Shadow Children series; Children of Exile is every bit as compelling. I was drawn to the series by one of my library kids, who asked for Children of Exile shortly after it arrived at my library, and proceeded to tell me how amazing he heard it was from a friend. Haddix does middle grade dystopia well. She makes her societies uncomfortably believable, taking a hard look at current events and applying them to a darker future. Here, she explores race and war; a society so war-torn that an alien society intervenes, and the consequences.

If you haven’t read Children of Exile, I highly recommend it, but you can step into the world with Children of Refuge; it’s a different character’s story, and there is enough exposition to fill you in. With the Shadow Children series still showing up on reading lists, this is a good time to booktalk a new series by the same author. Make a great dystopian middle grade display with The City of Ember series, Lois Lowry’s The Giver books, and Marcus Sedgwick’s Floodland.

 

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate

5-Minute Stories for Minecrafters: Extreme Stories!

5-Minute Stories for Minecrafters: Extreme Stories from the Extreme Hills, by Greyson Mann/Illustrated by Grace Sandford, (Sept. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $7.99, ISBN: 978-1-5107-2370-2

Recommended for readers 7-10

Buddies Zack, Sophia, and Anthony are Minecraft adventurers on the hunt for treasure. Over the course of eight short stories (or short chapters, since they do follow one adventure), the friends encounter zombies, spiders, exploding Creepers, and a dreaded Enderman! Written for a more intermediate audience, these are fun for a quick read-aloud during a circle time or for kids who are in the mood for something fast that doesn’t require a lot of commitment; something they can pick up during a homework or study break. Themes of working together and friendship frame the relationship between characters and influence choices they make while adventuring. Illustrations throughout the text keep kids in the story’s world, holding their interest.

Overall, a fun book to have available for Minecrafters. My library is loaded with them.

Posted in Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

Ballpark Mysteries goes to Cooperstown!

Ballpark Mysteries: Christmas in Cooperstown (Super Special #2), by David A. Kelly/Illustrated by Mark Meyers, (Sept. 2017, Random House), $5.99, ISBN: 978-0-399-55192-5

Recommended for readers 6-9

Confession time: While I steer a lot of my readers toward the Ballpark Mysteries books, I hadn’t read one until Christmas in Cooperstown. I’m really glad I did read it, though; despite not being much of a sports fan, I do enjoy a fun mystery, and Christmas in Cooperstown was just what I needed.

Best friends Mike and Kate are volunteering to wrap presents for a charity, Cooperstown Cares, at the Baseball Hall of Fame. As a thank you, they and their friends are invited to a sleepover at the Hall of Fame, which is pretty fantastic. It’s a good thing, too – Mike notices that the Honus Wagner card – a rare baseball card that can go for millions of dollars at auction – has been stolen and replaced with a fake! He and Kate have to track down the clues, find the card and the culprit, and deliver the charity’s gifts on time. Pretty big order!

Sports fans will really enjoy the tidbits of sports history here. I was interested in the science behind discovering the fake card, and using his dad’s business as a baseball card dealer opens the door to some fun trivia and facts throughout the book. “Dugout Notes”, a regular feature in the Mysteries, on Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame finish up the book, along with a recipe for All-Star Blue Chip Muffins, which have a little cameo in the story.

Readers can pick up Christmas at Cooperstown without having read other Ballpark Mysteries; there’s enough exposition that you can easily get into the groove of things. Black and white illustrations by Mark Meyers keep things interesting and moving along.

I got to meet David Kelly at KidLitCon this past weekend and he is the nicest guy! It’s always a bonus when you find out that an author is pretty darn cool on top of being a good writer. He was kind enough to pass on a set of his MVP series for my library kids, too!

MVP – Most Valuable Players – is another sports mystery series for intermediate readers; like Ballpark Mysteries, you can dive into each one separately, with no stress. In the first story, The Gold Medal Mess, we meet the MVPs on the opening spread, where we get their “stats” via an illustration and quick character description: Max is a great athlete and detective; Alice is an archery ace and animal lover; Nico can’t wait to practice and play; Luke loves to exercise his funny bone, and Kat, Luke’s twin sister, captures the best game-day moments on camera. The kids are getting ready for their annual school Olympics, but someone is leaving threatening letters, telling the school to cancel the Olympics or else. When things start going wrong on the big day, it’s up to the five friends to figure out who’s causing the trouble and save the day before someone gets hurt.

Each MVP book covers a different sport and features black and white illustration. The cast is a diverse, all-star group of kids with different interests and talents, and who work together to solve mysteries, help others, and take on bullies. Each book includes bonus facts on each featured sports: The Gold Medal Mess has Olympics facts and photos; other books have terms and diagrams. I’m putting these up on the “NEW” shelf tomorrow, and I expect they’ll be gone just as quickly as I get them up there. A good add to sports fiction and mystery collections!