Finished Gabby Garcia’s Ultimate Playbook by Iva-Marie Palmer. I received a copy for review.
Gabby Garcia’s life is going perfectly: she has great grades, good friends and she’s the best baseball pitcher at her school. She’s even in the midst of pitching a no-hitter when everything falls apart: her school has asbestos. Now she has to transfer to a new school and all of a sudden she’s a jinx, the baseball team doesn’t need her (or even like her) and her grades are heading firmly toward Cs. It is not ideal. How to reverse this trend?
This is adorable and sports fans will love it. Watching Gabby try to reinvent herself is pretty hysterical (let’s just say that all of her new “talents” prove to be harder to master than she expects) but kids will learn to (a) keep trying and (b) attempt new things. There are definitely worse things. ;)
It ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I would definitely read the sequel.
Finished Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee. I received a copy for review.
Mattie is in eighth grade and is super psyched that their class play is Romeo & Juliet! She never really thought about acting before but decides to try out. She gets cast as Paris but her two best friends are cast, as well…and her new friend Gemma is playing Juliet! Things get complicated, though, when Mattie realizes that maybe she doesn’t think of Gemma as just a friend…
This book is completely adorable! I love Mattie, Tessa and Lucy. They are great friends and I really want a book from Tessa’s perspective (she collects and uses Shakespearean insults. Who wouldn’t want to be her friend?!).
The realization that Mattie has a crush on a girl is handled sensitively and it’s a super sweet crush. (And they’re in eighth grade so it does make sense that it would happen now.)
Warning, though: this will make you want to watch the movie. Recommended.
Finished Clayton Byrd Goes Underground by Rita Williams-Garcia. I received a copy for review.
Clayton Byrd loves a lot of things but his two favorites are his grandfather (Cool Papa) and the blues. He plays the blues harp (harmonica) and yearns for the day he’s good enough for a solo. When his grandpa dies, though, his mom forbids him from playing again. Losing Cool Papa is awful enough; he can’t lose the blues, too! So he decides he’ll steal the blues harp back and go on the road with The Bluesmen.
I really liked this book and its exploration of grief. It’s not a sad book, per se, but it shows the little-discussed side effects (anger, sudden exhaustion).
I also appreciate the way we see Clayton’s mom. She’s doing mean things but she has her reasons. It’s not something Clayton necessarily gets but careful readers will.
This is a novel that will steal your heart. Recommended.
Finished Posted by John David Anderson. I received a copy for review.
Frost and his friends aren’t the coolest group in their middle school. They’re mostly left alone, thanks to the fact that one of them is a jock. Then three things happen (in no particular order): the jock friend gets good, a new girl starts to sit with them and cell phones get banned from the school. As a result, Post-Its become a new form of bullying.
This book is a slow burn. Most of it is character-driven (which is fine, because the characters are fantastic, especially Rose) and, while it’s interesting throughout, the last quarter or so is the best.
It’s definitely interesting to think that kids will always find a way to be awful to each other. I like to think it’s not true, but I know better. Especially in middle school. But it’s also true that you find your people and they will save you. Those are basically the two themes of the book, and both are equally true.
Finished The Summer of Bad Ideas by Keira Stewart. I received a copy for review.
Edith, her twin siblings and their parents are spending the summer at her grandma’s house. She died recently and her will stipulates that her children fix up the house together (it’s Edith’s family, her uncle AJ and cousin Rae). Rae is about 50 times cooler than Edith and so she decides to reinvent herself. Step one: go by Edie instead. Step two: complete a list her grandmother made on how to have a great summer. (Except the suggestions are scary—catch a snake? Cross the swamp at night? Kiss a boy?)
This book is cute. It’s perfect summer reading (though you don’t have to wait til then; it’ll bring summer to you!) and Edith is incredibly relatable.
Bonus points for having Rae not be so perfect and cool either.
I would like a sequel please.
Finished Georgia Rules by Nancy Turner Steveson.
Maggie’s mom and stepfather are getting divorced. That’s hard enough except her mom has decided that they’re going to move to Vermont. Maggie’s biological father (a man who’s essentially a stranger) has died and left her a farm. The plan is to stay there a year and then sell it (that stipulation is in the will), take the money and move anywhere else. Except it doesn’t take long for Maggie to love Vermont and the friends she makes there. She feels closer to her dad there…hopefully she can convince her mom that they need to stay.
This is another fast read, one that I think will make people want to go to Vermont. (In my case, in the summer. The snow would kill me.)
It also works as a reminder that families can comprise people we choose, not just people we’re related to. And I love Maggie’s friends (a giant blended family with siblings) and her new life.
Finished Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson. I received a copy for review.
Emmie is practically invisible and that’s the way she likes it. Whenever she has to talk, she kind of does a little. Being the center of attention is excruciating.
Katie is the exact opposite. She’s super popular and loves being noticed.
They don’t spend time together until a note Emmie wrote to her crush (but never intended to share) is accidentally found and spread. That guy is Tyler and he happens to be dating Katie. (Or whatever you call it when it’s middle schoolers.)
This book is so cute! It’s a fast read (Emmie’s sections have little illustrations and Katie’s parts are graphic-novel style) and it’s completely charming.
Watching Emmie come out of her shell (slowly and grudgingly) is completely delightful and I think shy girls will overidentify and maybe decide to talk more, as well.
Finished Planet Jupiter by Jane Kurtz. I received a copy for review.
Jupiter, her brother Orion and their mom lead a very unconventional life. They make their money busking and doing odd jobs and they tend to leave when the mood takes them. And then Jupiter learns that her couson Edom is going to live with them while her mom (Aunt Amy) is going through chemo. Even worse, they have to live in one place while this happens. And worst of all, Orion isn’t coming with them.
Edom isn’t a good replacement, either. She’s adopted (from Ethiopia) and takes everything literally. She won’t talk about her past at all, and she won’t share. Any money she earns is her money.
I enjoyed this story, which felt like something I would’ve read and loved as a child (it has a touch of The Great Gilly Hopkins) and I think middlegrade readers will enjoy a glimpse into two very different lifestyles.
It’s sweet and surprisingly funny, too. Obviously there are sad parts, but on the whole, I don’t think anything would upset young readers. It’s clear that Aunt Amy is going to survive, for example.
Finished Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou. I received a copy for review.
Callie has been taking time off from school. She’s been racking up tardies and if she gets one nore, her parents will be notified. So she skips and goes to the museum. She has such a great time that she does it the next day, too. And the next. (To be fair, she lives in Manhattan and there are a lot of great museums.) And she even has a friend: Cassius. He’s unschooled and is her new museum-buddy. Obviously she’ll have to head back to school eventually…but maybe tomorrow.
My synopsis has left a lot of stuff out. There are a lot of subplots (all handled well) and if I started on them, I’d never stop.
So here’s what else you need to know: Callie’s family is awesome. And I love that she’s doing great things while skipping school. She’s not hanging out at a mall (or the Manhattan equivalent) or watching daytime TV. She’s spending time in a museum, looking at art. I want to do that! And I like Cassius, and I especially like the fact that they are so clearly just friends.
I need a sequel/companion novel from her little brother Desmond’s perspective. Like, NOW PLEASE.
Finished One Hundred Spaghetti Strings by Jen Nails. I received a copy for review.
Steffy and her older sister Nina live with their Auntie Gina. (Her dad isn’t around and her mom has had a traumatic brain injury and she’s in a nice assisted living-type place.) She’s focusing on her cooking (which she’s incredibly good at) and school when suddenly her life is turned upside down: her dad is back and he’s going to live with them.
I loved this sweet middlegrade. And I love Steffy. Adult readers will pick up on things younger readers may not (or may just register faster) but nothing in this novel is gratuitous or inappropriate. (My example is that Steffy’s dad keeps a ton of beer in the fridge and drinks a lot of it. Then the beer disappears and he starts to spend a lot of time in their church’s basement. Adult readers may not only clue in to “drinking problem” almost immediately but will also think “AA meeting.”)
Warning: food descriptions will make you hungry. Recommended.