Mom Read It

If the kids are reading it, chances are I have, too.

Dance like your life depends on it: Spin the Sky March 17, 2017

Spin the Sky, by Jill MacKenzie, (Nov. 2016, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 978-1510706866

Recommended for readers 14+

Eighteen year-old Magnolia Woodson and her older sister, Rose, have to live with the sins of their drug addict mother, who abandoned them after a tragedy a year before. Living in a small clamming town in Oregon, everyone knows who they are and what happened; the only folks who seem to think differently are Magnolia’s childhood best friend, George, and his mother, who’s taken care of the girls whenever their mother fell short. To change the way the town sees Magnolia and her sister, she decides she need to win the reality dance show, Live to Dance. She and George head to Portland to audition, but they make it! Now the real work begins: will the competition be too much for Mags? Will her friendship with George survive the stress of the show, and will she be able to live in the fishbowl that is reality television, especially with a secret she doesn’t want made public?

Spin the Sky has a strong premise that isn’t afraid to tackle some hot-button topics like drug addiction, sexuality, abortion, and miscarriage. Some of your more conservative readers may shy away from this one; steer them toward books like Sophie Flack’s Bunheads, Lorri Hewett’s Dancer, or Sarah Rubin’s Someday Dancer. Magnolia is a tough character to crack: she’s consumed with what other people think of her, and obsesses over winning the competition, seemingly just so that the town will accept her and her sister. She has a complicated love-hate relationship with her mother (understandably), and she has an unrequited crush on George, who she thinks is gay – and is really upset when it seems that isn’t the case. The other contestants all have their own issues that the author briefly touches on throughout the novel.

If you have readers who love reading about dance and are interested in reality television, Spin the Sky is a good backup for your shelves.

 

Star Scouts gets the merit badge for fun reading! January 26, 2017

starscouts_1Star Scouts, by Mike Lawrence, (March 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722804

Recommended for ages 8-12

Avani Patel is not feeling this new scouts Flower Scouts troop her parents signed her up for. She’s the new kid, her parents figured it would be a new way to make friends, but the Flower Scouts are so lame. All they talk about are boys and makeovers; it’s totally out of line with her interests, like rodeos and adventure. Things change for the better when Avani is accidentally picked up by an alien named Mabel, who happens to be a scout – a Star Scout – working on one of her badges. The two girls hit it off, and Avani finds herself an unofficial Star Scout! She’s zooming around on a jetpack, working on teleportation, and avoiding the xenoscatology lab; she’s made some out of this world friends, and she’s happy. When Star Scouts announce their yearly camping trip, Avani manages to fib her father into signing off on the trip – she’s going away to camp, she doesn’t need to mention that it’s not exactly on the planet, right? But shortly after arriving at Camp Andromeda, Avani finds herself on the wrong side of a rival group of aliens; Avani, Mabel and their friends are in for a heck of a week, if they can work together to get through it.

Star Scouts is a fun outer-space adventure for middle graders. It’s scouting with a little more adventure added in, and lots of hilarious bathroom humor (look, I raised three boys, I find poop and fart jokes funny) to keep readers cracking up. There are positive messages about friendship and working together that parents and caregivers will appreciate, and the two main characters are spunky girls that aren’t afraid to take on an adventure.

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If you want to go the sci-fi way with displays and booktalks, you have to pair this with Zita the Spacegirl and Cleopatra in Space. You can revisit this book when you’re getting ready for Summer Reading by booktalking this with camp books like Camp Midnight, Beth Vrabel’s Camp Dork, and Nancy Cavanaugh’s Just Like Me.

Check out more of Mike Cavanaugh’s illustration at his website.

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The Time Museum has something for everyone – no matter what time you’re from! January 8, 2017

time-museum_1The Time Museum, by Matthew Loux, (Feb. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596438491

Recommended for ages 8-12

Delia’s the class bookworm, the class nerd… you get the idea. When school’s out for the summer, all her brother wants to do is go swimming, but Delia has found something much more exciting: the possibility of an internship at The Time Museum, courtesy of her Uncle Lyndon! The Time Museum is kind of like the Natural History Museum, but on an Earth-wide basis. All time eras are welcome, as Delia learns when she meets some of the kids she’s competing against for the internship: Michiko, a Japanese girl from 2217; Titus Valerius Marianus, from Ancient Rome; Dex, who’s a Neanderthal, thank you very much, not a caveman; Reggie, a 51st century Canadian boy genius, and Greer, a prickly Scottish girl who’s already been time traveling. As they train for the internship, they must also go through time trials – going back – or forward – in time to find and collect anachronisms. They’ll also learn that working as a team is much harder, but more beneficial, than going it alone.

The Time Museum is a fun middle grade romp for every kid that wants to live Night at the Museum or catches every episode of The Librarians. Whether Delia and her friends are running away from dinosaurs or discovering a robot playing strip poker, there’s something here for everyone to laugh at. There’s a positive message about healthy competition and teamwork going hand in hand, there’s a giant, talking brain, and a super-cool android librarian that uses android cats to fetch books. If I had a library like that, I’d never leave; I’d just hang out at my reference desk, covered in robot kittens.

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The Time Museum is a lot of fun, and maybe it’ll turn even reluctant readers into readers who see the fun in history. Add to your graphic novel shelves, and talk this one up with some good, tried and true Geronimo Stilton, our favorite time-traveling journalist mouse. Get out your Time Warp Trio series to create a fun display for everyone.

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Block and Jam! Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars! December 8, 2016

trish-trash_1Trish Trash #1: Rollergirl of Mars, by Jessica Abel (Nov. 2016, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781629916149

Recommended for ages 10+

About 200 years from now, Trish “Trash” Nupindju lives with her aunt and uncle on a Mars-based moisture farm. Mars is colonized, but settlers live and work under brutal conditions and live in abject poverty. Trish cuts school one day try out for the Novas, a hover derby team – think roller derby, but a little more off the ground – because she wants to become a star and leave this red rock already. She finds herself on the wrong side of hover diva Hanna Barbarian, but she lands a spot as team intern. Life’s starting to look up, until Trish discovers a weak and injured Martian, whom she takes in.

Rollergirl of Mars is the first in a new science fiction trilogy by Harvey Award-winning author Jessica Abel. It’s a promising beginning, but I’ve got a few questions; the biggest one being, does living on Mars age humans differently? Trish is supposed to be 7 1/2 years old, but looks and acts like a teenager. I hope this gets fleshed out in future issues. I love the idea of hover derby (I’ve mentioned being a frustrated derby girl when I’ve reviewed derby books here in the past), and the match in the first issue has energy that readers will enjoy. We’ve got a diva conflict setting up, and some family drama on the horizon, so there are quite a few elements set up here to move future narratives forward. I love the diversity reflected here, too. Give this to your Roller Girl readers who are ready for some more realistic, gritty art and storytelling, and talk this up with your teens. There’s a great Trish Trash section on Jessica Abel’s author page, too.

 

 

A Shot in the Dark – Sports Hi-Lo Reading from Lorimer June 11, 2015

shot in the darkA Shot in the Dark, by Janet M. Whyte (2015, Lorimer) $9.95CAD, ISBN: 9781459408500

Recommended for ages 12-16

Micah is a legally blind 8th grader. He’s excited to have made the junior goalball team, but he’s got some stuff going on that is stressing him out. For starters, his utevitis is flaring up again – it’s the degenerative eye condition that’s taking his sight, and hurts like crazy. His parents want to get him a guide dog, which rankles him because he feels like it’s a decision they’re making for him, and he doesn’t want to feel dependent on the dog. Finally, a new player joins the goalball team, and he’s good. Really good. Micah’s frustration shows on the goalball court, and almost costs him his spot on the team, and some friendships. Luckily, he’s got a lot of support in his corner, from his parents to the specialist, Cam, who’s helping him work out walking with a cane and talking out his feelings.

This is another Hi-Lo book from Lorimer, and it’s a great choice middle schoolers and high schoolers. We’ve got a lead character who works with his disability, and he’s a jock on top of it! Ms. Whyte takes the time to explain and narrate goalball the way Mike Lupica writes about sports, so readers will discover a new sport and learn that disabilities are obstacles that can be overcome. We get insight into navigating school and life for a kid with a disability, and it’s presented realistically, as empowering as it is frustrating for Micah. Sports gives most kids confidence, and we see that here, illustrated with Micah’s love for goalball.

This is a great summer reading choice that works nicely with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks intiative. As with other Lorimer Hi-Lo selections, it’s age appropriate and offers a deeper read, ready for reluctant and struggling readers who have worked on their skills and are ready for the next step.