Thursday, April 10, 2014
Plot Summary:
Rabi loves baseball, but the problem is that he is a better strategist than a player. In fact, Rabi does this super human trick where he can use statistics to determine the outcome of a game that not only amazes his fellow players, but rubs his coach the wrong way. The real problem with the team isn't Rabi's lack of batting ability, but Coach Cocoran's inability to put together a logical batting order and general managing all together. What should have been an easy victory ended up being a disaster. Along with a poor batting average, Rabi struggles with the fact that he is the only mixed kid on the team, which his teammates make evident when they bully him by calling him "red dot." Well, after this last game, and escaping the clutches of Sammy and company, Rabi decided that he needed help with his swing so he, Miguel, and Joe went off to practice in a park near Milrow Meatpacking Plant. What was supposed to be a quiet afternoon, ended in chaos when plant workers stormed out of the meat packing facility including Miguel's aunt and uncle. What was said to be as a building maintenance, it was much bigger and worse than that, especially when Coach Cocoran tried to eat Rabi's brains. Furthermore, amidst all of the chaos, Miguel's aunt and uncle were take away by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) since they witnessed the incident that occurred at the meat packing plant.  Although the boys have only seen two zombies, more and more emerge from the plant and when they tried to tell "responsible adults" more poor decisions were made forcing them to run from the authorizes. Is it possible that the zombie apocalypse is real? If so, Rabi, Miguel, and Joe must save their town from imminent destruction, but the problem is how can they get anyone to believe them that zombies actually exist?

Critical Evaluation:
After reading Paolo Bacigalupi's award-winning noel, Shipbreaker, I am so glad to see another side of his writing in Zombie Baseball Beatdown. This story is a lot of fun because not only is there action and zombies, there are a whole set of very real issues that most teen readers will not be familiar with. For example, our dynamic trio are a bunch of misfits who have a lot in common despite their difference. For example, Rabi is part Indian and Caucasian, which makes him stick out like a sore thumb in his quiet little town. Miguel, whose parents (undocumented workers) were deported because they had the courage to speak out about the awful conditions of the meatpacking plant. Lastly, there is Joe whose father is an alcoholic and a single father. Although the boys don't see their friendship based on their family lives, they stick together because they help one another in may ways that solidify this relationship. In fact, it is very apparent when Miguel's aunt and uncle are taken away by ICE  both Rabi and Joe tell him that he can stay with their families because Miguel "didn't ask to be an orphan). Actually, Miguel's family situation is a whole different plot of the story because Sammy's father (Rabi's arch-nemesis) is responsible for their deportation because they were going to bring down the whole meat packing facility, which means Sammy and his family would lose all their money; Sammy's family is the most affluent family in town so rather than doing what is right by the people, Sammy's father reported Miguel's family to ICE so they are no longer a threat to the company. Another thing that I love about this story is that is reminds me of the many wonderful stories by Roald Dahl where the grown-ups are beyond ridiculous and not at all responsible for their own actions.There is a lot going on in this little 292 page book that some readers might find their heads spinning; however, Bacigalupi is able to tie all of this together to create a very serious story, but with a fun twist that make this book difficult to put down.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Paolo Bacigalupi’s writing has appeared in WIRED Magazine, High Country News, Salon.com, OnEarth Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. His short fiction been anthologized in various “Year’s Best” collections of short science fiction and fantasy, nominated for three Nebula Awards, four Hugo Awards, and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for best science fiction short story of the year. His short story collection PUMP SIX AND OTHER STORIES was a 2008 Locus Award winner for Best Collection and also named a Best Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly
His debut novel THE WINDUP GIRL was named by TIME Magazine as one of the ten best novels of 2009, and also won the Hugo, Nebula, Locus, Compton Crook, and John W. Campbell Memorial Awards. Internationally, it has won the Seiun Award (Japan), The Ignotus Award (Spain), The Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (Germany), and the Prix Planète-SF des Blogueurs (France).
His debut young adult novel, SHIP BREAKER, was a Micheal L. Printz Award Winner, and a National Book Award Finalist.
His most recent novel, THE DROWNED CITIES was a 2012 Kirkus Reviews Best of YA Book, A 2012 VOYA Perfect Ten Book, and 2012 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist.
He currently lives in Western Colorado with his wife and son, where he is working on a new novel.

Genre:
Tween Fiction, Tween Humor, Tween Comedy


Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4-7


Books Similar to Zombie Baseball Beatdown:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"Printz-winning Bacigalupi writing a middle-grade zombie novel? Yes, it really happened, and yes, it's pretty darn good....Simultaneously smart, funny, and icky, this book asks a tough question: Is it worth looking the other way in order to save yourself?"—Booklist

"A high-energy, high-humor look at the zombie apocalypse....a signal alert to young teens to think about what they eat....sure to be appreciated by middle school zombie cognoscenti."—Kirkus Reviews

"Defies the expectations of the comedy-horror genre, turning this zombie novel into an effective bit of social commentary while staying true to the story's grisly and goofy roots....Casual readers will have a blast, and those who look deeper will learn something, too."—Publishers Weekly

"It's a testament to the author's skill that [the characters] express values of courage, friendship, and integrity as naturally as they toss off hilarious observations....[A] fast-paced home run."—School Library Journal

"[Introduces] reluctant readers to activism through literature.... a dark comedy with a bit of heart."—The Bulletin

"Batting comes in handy beating down zombies....Will appeal to reluctant readers."—Library Media Connection

Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Saturday, April 5, 2014
Plot Summary:
Just when everything was quiet and peaceful at Mica High, the student body got a surprise they weren't expecting: Stargirl Carraway. For Leo, everything is always the status quo; everyone looked alike and everyone had their place. When Stargirl showed up in her outrageous outfit, and ukelele, he didn't know what to think, nor did he know what to say. Well, at first, everyone thought that Stargirl was a gimmick and probably a plant by the administration to shake things up a bit. However, when everyone figured out Stargirl was 100% original, and real, things started to change much to the chagrin of Hillary Kimble (the most popular girl in school). In fact, the more the students observed Stargirl, she stirred something inside all of them, which led to a concept they were not so familiar with: individuality. When Kevin kept pestering Leo to interview Stargirl for the school television show (The Hot Seat), he started to become protective of Stargirl simply because he thought the idea was cruel. When Leo found out that he and Stargirl share a common thread, he started asking questions and that is when he started to notice her sweet freckles and sandy blonde hair. Although Stargirl was homeschooled all her life, why did she do the things she did like singing happy birthday to complete strangers, showing up to funerals to pay her respects, and many other random things? Furthermore, what if Leo started developing feelings for someone he just can't figure out? More importantly, what would people think of him if they knew that his heart was captured by an uncontrollable force that is so new and unknown?

Critical Evaluation:
I cannot express how much this book reflected my own life at high school. In fact, I was definitely one of the Stargirl-types and I loved every moment. Although I didn't have a conflicted romance like Leo and Stargirl, I can definitely imagine the heartache they both felt. For Leo, he blew it big time because he was so afraid to do something that would require him to "step outside of the box" and be an individual. If there is one lesson to learn from this story is to never be afraid of who we are and accept others for who they are (and not what they look, talk like, etc). High school is probably the biggest wake up call teens will ever get because they not only have to deal with the pressure of succeeding, they have to stand up for their beliefs and deal with people who don't share the same opinions as we do. Not to mention, they will learn why "fads" and called "fads" and why we should never equate the two of them with people. Ultimately, this book is about respect, kindness, and understanding and that can be a very hard lesson to learn if one is afraid or unwilling to try. For Stargirl, she handled everyone like a champ despite the criticism and bullying. In fact, readers will definitely relate to Stargirl, especially when we meet Hillary Kimble. Sadly, there will, and always, be a Hillary Kimble at every school, but the best way to manage people like her is to not take anything they say seriously and not allow them to bully. Jerry Spinelli has the magic touch when it comes to these topics because readers can really see the heart of the issue and the consequences.  Going back to Leo blowing it (I was really upset that he did), Stargirl made an important decision to stay true to who she is and, although Leo couldn't accept her for who she is, she still smiled and thought of him. Stargirl is the epitome of good and readers will get a further glimpse into this pure soul in the sequel: Love, Stargirl.

Information about the Author:
According to Scholastic.com:
When I was growing up, the first thing I wanted to be was a cowboy. That lasted till I was about ten. Then I wanted to be a baseball player. Preferably shortstop for the New York Yankees.
I played Little League in junior high and high school. I only hit two home runs in my career, but I had no equal when it came to standing at shortstop and chattering to my pitcher: “C'mon, baby, hum the pea.” Unfortunately, when I stood at the plate, so many peas were hummed past me for strikes that I decided to let somebody else become shortstop for the Yankees.
It was about that time that our high school football team won a heart-stopping game against one of the best teams in the country. While the rest of the town was tooting horns and celebrating, I went home and wrote a poem about the game. A few days later the poem was published in the local newspaper, and suddenly I had something new to become: a writer.
Little did I know that twenty-five years would pass before a book of mine would be published.
Not that I wasn't trying. In the years after college I wrote four novels, but nobody wanted them. They were adult novels. So was number five, or so I thought. However, because it was about a thirteen-year-old boy, adult book publishers didn't even want to see it. But children's publishers did — and that's how, by accident, I became an author of books for kids.
Life is full of happy accidents.
Sometimes I'm asked if I do research for my stories. The answer is yes and no. No, in the sense that I seldom plow through books at the library to gather material. Yes, in the sense that the first fifteen years of my life turned out to be one big research project. I thought I was simply growing up in Norristown, Pennsylvania; looking back now I can see that I was also gathering material that would one day find its way into my books.
John Ribble's blazing fastball. Dovey Wilmouth, so beautiful a fleet of boys pedaled past her house ten times a day. Mrs. Seeton's whistle calling her kids in to dinner. The day my black snake disappeared. The creek, the tracks, the dump, the red hills. My days did not pass through, but stayed, filling the shelves of my memory. They became the library where today I do my research.
I also get material from my own kids. Along the way I married another children's writer, Eileen Spinelli, and from our six kids have come a number of stories. Jeffrey and Molly, who are always fighting, have been especially helpful.
Ideas also come from everyday life. And from the newspapers. One day, for example, I read a story about a girl who competed on her high school wrestling team. A year later bookstores carried a new book with my name on it: There's a Girl in My Hammerlock.
So there you are. I never became a cowboy or baseball player, and now I'm beginning to wonder if I ever really became a writer. I find that I hesitate to put that label on myself, to define myself by what I do for a living. After all, I also pick berries and touch ponies and skim flat stones over water and marvel at the stars and breathe deeply and grin from ear to ear and save the best part for last. I've always done these things. Which is to say, I never had to become anything. Or anyone. I always, already, was.
Call me a berry-picking, pony-touching star-marveler.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 8 & up

Books Similar to Stargirl:
 Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:

“A magical and heartbreaking tale.”—Kirkus Reviews, Starred

An ALA Top Ten Best Book for Young Adults

A Publishers Weekly Choice of the Year’s Best Books

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Friday, March 28, 2014
Plot Summary:
After coming home from the war, Hayley's father is constantly haunted by the memories and the visions of the war that ravaged his mind, body, and soul. What appears to be Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Hayley's father isn't coping well where he can no longer hold down a job and self medicates with drugs and alcohol. Hayley, who is seventeen years old, wakes up every day fearing what lies behind her father's bedroom door. After years of moving around, Hayley and her father moved into her grandmother's home, which would require her to finish high school with other teens her age. For Hayley, this attempt at normalcy has not only made things worse for her father, her heart and her mind won't let anyone in because her thoughts are constantly occupied by her father. Rather then trying to fit in, Hailey sleeps through class, refuses to do her homework, and barely socializes with the people she calls friends and then she met Finn. Finn is a a tall, skinny guy with shaggy hair who refuses to take "NO!" for an answer; Finn wants Hayley to write an article for the school newspaper because he knows how smart and eloquent she is. Despite Hayley's bad attitude, she really is a bright young girl who could go places if she applied herself. Well, after making a pretty sweet deal with Finn, Hayley ends up writing that article, which was not only fun but gave her an escape from all of the worrying and stress. Moreover, the more time that she spends with Finn, the more her feelings grown for him. Hayley wants nothing more than to be happy and for her father to be healthy, but will his pain overcome his will to fight?More importantly, will Hayley be able to keep it together or will she fade away just like her father?

Critical Evaluation:
Lauire Halse Anderson has written yet another riveting story about an issue that society has yet to really understand. Unfortunately, unless you live with someone with PTSD, insight to this disease is very limited and Halse Anderson provides readers with a fairly accurate portrayal. Although most people are aware how devistating PTSD can be for person who has it, we tend to forget the people that have to help and live with their loved ones illness. Despite all of the stress and the heartache that she must endure, Hayley is given a once in a lifetime opportunity to be a normal teenager and that opportunity is named Finn.  I have to say this, granted it may not be an important observation, but the way that Finn arranged his date with Hayley was absolutely adorbs! Honestly, I squealed!What's important about this relationship is that Finn is going through his own set of family dysfunction because his sister happens to be a drug addict. When Hayley finally opens to up Finn, and vice versa, these two teens find the common ground they have been longing for. Although Hayley and Finn are the main characters, all of the teens in this story are struggling with their own amidst their parents' issues as well. I can't tell you how many times my heart broke for Hayley and her father because no one should have to suffer from the horrible disease because it destroys everything in its path. Hayley's father may have survived several tours of duty overseas, but the biggest battle he has yet to face is transitioning back into civilian life and taking control of his illness. The ending will blow your mind. A very, very compelling read and difficult to put down. Bravo, Laurie Halse Anderson!

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous national and state awards, as well as international recognition. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists. Laurie was honored with the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award given by YALSA division of the American Library Association for her “significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature…”. Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives in Northern New York, where she likes to watch the snow fall as she writes.


Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen War Stories

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up


Books Similar to The Impossible Knife of Memory:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:
"As in Speak, Anderson provides a riveting study of a psychologically scarred teenager . . . absorbing" —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Compelling, powerful, and timely . . . This is challenging material, but in Anderson's skilled hands, readers will find a light shining on the shadowy reality of living with someone who has lived through war" —Booklist, starred review

"The book offers an eloquent portrait of the effects of both war and family legacies, and many readers will find reflections of their own struggle to keep family connections while obtaining their independence.” —BCCB, starred review

"With powerful themes of loyalty and forgiveness, this tightly woven story is a forthright examination of the realities of war and its aftermath on soldiers and their families. One of Anderson’s strongest and most relevant works to date.” —School Library Journal, starred review

"Anderson's novels . . . speak for the still-silent among us, and force all of us to acknowledge the real and painful truths that are too dangerous to ignore." —New York Times

“The Impossible Knife of Memory isn’t always an easy read-Anderson’s gritty, authentic look at PTSD is by turns painful and heartbreaking-but it’s an important one." —Entertainment Weekly

“Andy comes home from the war in Iraq honored for his service, and haunted by it.  The war still goes on inside of him and threatens to make Hayley another causality. Laurie Halse Anderson is one of the best known writers of literature for young adults and children in the world. ” —Scott Simon, NPR Weekend Edition

“Laurie Halse Anderson has been lauded and awarded for her ability to channel the teenage mind (and heart) dealing with tough issues. In The Impossible Knife of Memory, she takes on PTSD through the story of a girl coping with her troubled veteran dad.” —Family Circle

"At turns heartbreaking, at turns funny, the narrative in this book is so spot on I wanted to give Hayley my phone number so she would have a friend in times of crisis.  Seriouslydoes ANYONE write troubled teen characters with the realism, grace, and soul of Laurie Halse Anderson?" Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of The Storyteller and Between the Lines

“Laurie Halse Anderson serves the families of veterans with the same honor, dignity, and respect that the veterans, who serve us, deserve. With her trademark hope, humor, and heart-breaking realism, Laurie Halse Anderson has given us a roadmap to heal. She is a treasure.”Stephen Chobsky, New York Times bestselling author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Hello, everyone!

It's me and I just wanted to share with you a rather interesting proposition called the 2014 Hub Reading Challenge. The Young Adults Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), is sponsoring a reading challenge for everyone to read more! In fact, all you have to do is read 25 books by June (not too difficult since the challenge allows you to read graphic novels, books, manga, or listen to audiobooks). The best part is that anyone can participate in this challenge including you!

All you have to do is visit their site and follow the instructions. If you accomplish the goal, not only will you get mad props for participating, you will have the chance to win some serious swag. So what you waiting for?! Sign-up today!

~Deb

2014 Hub Reading Challenge

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Monday, March 17, 2014
Plot Summary:
Sawako Kuronuma is an outcast and, in fact, everyone she looks in the eye runs away. In fact, she is nicknamed Sadako because she looks exactly like the evil girl from The Ring. Although Sawako is nothing like Sadako, she is socially awkward and people mistake her willingness to help for curses and witchcraft. Now that she is in high school, Sawako wants nothing more than to make friends and be liked, but she didn't anticipate Kazehaya. Kazehaya is the most popular guy in school and Sawako had the pleasure of bumping into him before the start of the school year. Sawako admires everything about him because he is nice, smart, handsome, and well-liked by everyone. Little does Sawako know, but her meeting with Kazehaya will set off a chain of events that she never expected. By acknowledging her existence, Kazehaya tells all oof their classmates that Sawako is not the loathsome Sadako. In fact, Kazehaya points out to everyone that she works harder than everyone else and takes on extra duties so no one else has to. With his help, Kazehaya helps Sawako come out of her shell and show everyone that she can't see ghosts or put curses on people. Granted, not everyone takes an instant liking to Sawako, it's the little things that get people to notice how special she is. Not to mention, when she captures the attention of Chizu and Ayane, there kidness to move their desks next to her leads to a special friendship filled with many adventures that allow Sawako to blossom and grow. The only problem with this transformation, is that Sawako will inadvertently make enemies with girls who will terrible things to make her the laughing stock of the school and rip her relationships apart. Furthermore, Sawako's insecurities also pose a threat to her relationship with Kazehaya.  This is truly, and utterly, a sweet tale of first love and friendship where anything is possible.

Critical Evaluation:
It's been a while since I have a read a manga that has made me smile from ear to ear. This manga is about a girl who is so unbelievably shy and awkward that is scares people away. Although I have yet to meet someone like this, I am sure the intention was not to terrify, but to be pleasant. Sawako has been misunderstood her whole life so making friends hasn't always been the easiest thing to do. However, when Sawako meets Kazehaya, she sees everything she wants to be in him. As for Kazehaya, he is such a pure soul that everyone just falls in love with him. For Sawako, Kazehaya is the first person to see her for who she truly is and that makes her feel special. Although Sawako knows she has to do a better job of standing up for herself, Kazehaya gives her the strength and the courage to make everyone notice her (without them running away). What's even more awesome is that Ayane and Chizu actually go out on a limb and befriend Sawako despite all of the obstacles that lay ahead of them. Granted, Chizu and Ayane are also a bunch of misfits with less then reputable reputations, Sawako doesn't let the gossip influence her decision to befriend then because she sees the good in everyone, just like Kazehaya. Although Sawako insists that she wants to be more like Kazehaya, in reality, they are both very alike. My heart skips a beat with every volume because the closer Kazehaya and Sawako get, the more I beg for a happy ending. This really is for the those looking for an sweet and virtuous story about love and happiness.

Information about the Author:According to Amazon.com:
Born October 23rd, Karuho Shiina’s favorite movies include The Apartment, The Shawshank Redemption and My Neighbor Totoro. Her previous series, Crazy for You, was also published in Germany. Kimi ni Todoke is her latest hit manga.

Genre:
Teen Romance Manga, Teen Humor Manga

Number
of Volumes:
20-ongoing

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Kimi Ni Todoke:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Top selling Manga in Japan (2013)
Plot Summary:
It all started with Dwight and his Origami Yoda. Tommy, Kellan, Mike, Cassie, Lance, Quovondo, and Harvey have written down their experiences with Yoda/green paperwad. Although Dwight is a bit of a weirdo, his origami Yoda might have special powers to not only tell the future, but provide some pretty solid advice. For example, it was Yoda who helped Tommy make the right decision about whether or not he should ask a girl to dance at the PTA dance. Yoda also helped Kellan take care of the water fountain and pants issue while Mike was able to break his strikeout streak. As for Sara, well Yoda provided his advice that not only was not only weird, but ended up with her having a great time with her lonely grandmother. Although Origami Yoda seems like the real deal, the group skeptic (named Harvey) always has to add his own commentary to each story, which leads to the argument about Dwight and how every character sees Dwight. Although Harvey is a jerk, he does make a reasonable assessment of Dwight who is a genius on minute and a complete weirdo the next; Sara, who has known Dwight her whole life, testify to Dwight's eccentricities (he would dig holes and sit in them because Origami Yoda said to). Well, one day, when Tommy, Kellan, Mike, and Harvey got into an argument about Dwight, the mission to document the success of Origami Yoda has revealed a very important question: Is Dwight be weird on purpose or is her really weird? In this hilarious tale of a group of friends who want nothing more than to fit in and be liked, are they so desperate that they will consult Origami Yoda and Dwight to make crucial decisions about life?

Critical Evaluation:
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is amazing. Along with the tween humor, and issues, readers go on a journey to prove the power of Origami Yoda or his maker, Dwight. The best part about this story is that every character has an individual story where they are so desperate that they confess their fears to Origami Yoda and Dwight. Dwight is the hero of this story because he has endured countless insults for walking around school with a finger puppet, but, at the same time, everyone is seeking Yoda's advice. I can honestly say that Harvey annoyed me sooooo much because he had absolutely nothing nice to say about Dwight or anyone else in the story. Although it sets up the next story, and Harvey is the villain, each character does something remarkable: they allowed themselves to be vulnerable. As we read each case study, all of these tweens have a fear or a concern. Granted, the last person they want to share their problems with is Dwight and his finger puppet, they needed to hear someone, or something, to tell them that everything is going to be okay. Although I don't condone fighting, I was impressed with Dwight when he hears about Caroline's problem with Zack Martin; he was her Knight in Shining Armor not because she was a girl, but because she was being picked on. One thing about this age group is that words really do hurt so I definitely felt Dwight's pain when people would call him weird or a loser. Furthermore, other than standing up for Caroline, he would deny his "friends" access to Yoda because they would be mean to him and expect him to help them. Readers of all ages will realize just how difficult these years are because everything is new: school, liking the opposite sex, making friends, and fitting in. I am happy to say that this book had the perfect ending and I am looking forward to the sequel!

Information about the Author:
According to his wordpress:
Tom Angleberger NOT Anglebooger!!!!!!!!
Age: secret
Birthday: Oct. 24
Location: secret
Toothpaste: secret
Home state: Virginia
Security Clearance: AlphaShadow1
Pen of Choice: Pilot G2 gel roller! 1.0 used for everyday doodling, .7 used for illustrating the Origami Yoda books.
Previous occupations: newspaper reporter and columnist, juggler, weed boy, lawn mower part assembler, biology research assistant (bug larvae and plant diseases)
Current occupation: author and illustrator, keeper of origamiyoda.com (with Webmaster Sam)
First novel: Begun in 8th grade, never completed.
Published or about to be published novels: Qwikpick, Stonewall, Origami Yoda, Horton Halfpott, Darth Paper, Fake Mustache, Secret of the [[top secret]].
Spouse: author and illustrator Cece Bell!
Tom sez: “I’m not necessarily all that creative. I’m more of a puzzle putter together. I take all these little puzzle pieces — Yoda, middle school problems, Cheetos — and I fuss and fuss with them until I fit them together.”
Inspirations: Star Wars, Fumiaki Kawahata, Daniel Pinkwater, my own personal social disasters…
SuperPower: Aspergers!
 
Genre:
Tween Fiction, Tween Humor

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4 & up

Books Similar to The Strange Case of Origami Today:
Awards & Recognition:
  • Positive Review from School Library Journal
  • Positive Review from Booklist
Thursday, March 13, 2014
Plot Summary:
In the midst of WWI, Mary Shelley is on the run from the Spanish Influenza Epidemic while her father has been imprisoned for treason for helping young men dodge the draft. After making her way to San Diego, Mary must start all over knowing that her father, or Steven (her best friend and first love), may never come back home. Named after the great author, Mary Shelley, Mary, just like her mother, has a fascination with inventions, science, and electricity, which most people find a strange except for Steven. When Steven;s family moved to San Diego, Steven and Mary would write letters to one another and, when Aunt Eva moved to San Diego, Mary was thrilled because she finally had a way to see Steven. However, when Mary arrived, she saw that Julius (Steven's troubled brother) has transformed the family's honest photography business into a business of deception and thievery. What's worse is that Mary has no idea that Steven enlisted in the Army and will be shipping off to the very war she, and her father, despise. After the incident in the parlor that left a permanent rift between the brothers, Mary must to Steven's home to pick package from Steven. Sadly, the home that she admired so much was crawling with grieving families who are waiting to see their dearly departed loved ones. With the passing of Uncle Wilfred, Aunt Eva has become obsessed with Julius' work and doesn't allow Mary to say one bad thing about him. However, Mary's world is shattered when tragedy strikes and the only way she is going to cope with it is to find some sense of normalcy. The only catch is: what is normal when you can see, and speak, to the dead.         

Critical Evaluation:
It was very, very hard to not give the whole plot away in my summary because there is so much going on, but in an awesome and mysterious way. Mary Shelly is misfit who, like Dr. Frankenstein, has a fascination for everything scientific. What makes Mary Shelly a great main character is that she is an exceptionally bright young lady who, beneath the oddities she explores, is just like any other teenage girl. When I first read this story, I was dreading the romance, but this is definitely not a love story, but a story about love. Mary, who is struggling with the loss of her father, amidst a senseless war, is trying her best to make sense of the mess that she is living in. Her guardian, Aunt Eva, who is only ten years older than Mary, is also struggling with issues where her obsession, and fear of the flu, are driving her to the point of insanity. What I appreciate the most about this book is that the women in this story are undeniably strong and are true survivors. It was such a breath of fresh air to witness a young girl stand up for her beliefs and was willing to risk hell and high water to find the truth. Although I was put off by her attempt to electrocute herself (after finding out about Steven and her father), the Winters had a reason behind this action because it was her momentary "death" that has allowed her to step in between the realm of the living and the dead. More importantly, has she not done this crazy thing, who knows what would have happened if she didn't. In the Shadow of the Blackbirds is a memorizing tale of a courageous girl who is deperately trying to fight for the ones she loves. Furthermore, it's a hunting portrayal of our own world that could easily repeat itself and let's hope that it will never happen again.

Information about the Author:
According to her website: 
Cat Winters was born and raised in Southern California, near Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She received degrees in drama and English from the University of California, Irvine, and formerly worked in publishing.
Her critically acclaimed debut novel, In the Shadow of Blackbirds, was named a 2014 Morris Award Finalist, a 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults pick, a 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee, and a School Library Journal Best Book of 2013. Her upcoming books include The Cure for Dreaming (Amulet Books/Fall 2014) and The Uninvited (William Morrow/Publication date TBA), and she's a contributor to the 2015 YA horror anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys.

Cat lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

Genre:
Teen Historical Fiction, Teen Horror

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to In the Shadow of the Blackbirds:
Awards & Recognition:
  • 2014 William C. Morris YA Debut Award Finalist
  • School Library Journal Best Books of 2013
  • YALSA's 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • 2013 Bram Stoker Award Nominee for Superior Achievement in Young Adult Fiction
  • Booklist's 2013 Top Ten Horror Fiction for Youth
  • Booklist's 2013 Top Ten First Novels for Youth
  • Nominated for the ACL of Northern California's 2013 Distinguished Book List
  • Starred reviews, Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal
  • Highlighted review, VOYA Magazine

In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Monday, February 24, 2014
Plot Summary:
It's Leonard's 18th birthday and, instead of celebrating adulthood, he is planning to kill Asher Beale and himself. Ever since his parents' divorce, Leonard has felt abandoned and the person he used to called his best friend has made his life a living hell. Leonard is at his whit's end and he believes that the only way he can ease the pain is to die and to take Asher with him. Before committing this last act, Leonard has wrapped four gifts to give to people he cares about. The first gift he gave was for Walt (his chain smoking, Bogart loving next door neighbor). The second gift he gave was for Babak (his Iranian, violin virtuoso friend). The third gift he left was for his favorite teacher, Herr Silverman (Holocaust expert and one who never wears short sleeves). The last gift he gives went to Lauren (the Jesus freak whom he forced his first kiss upon). As Leonard gives away his most precious treasures to, his mission to kill Asher Beale starts to wane; at first, Leonard was ready and willing to end his life, but, after re-living the moments he has spent with those who matter the most, and why he wants to kill Asher, he starts to realize the core of his problems. As the countdown begins, Leonard's plan falls into the place and when he is in front of Asher Beale's window, the inevitable occurs and Leonard's life changes forever.


Critical Evaluation:
I can honestly say that I had to take my time reading this book simply because it hurt so much to hear about Leonard's life. This story is a raw and gut-wrenching story of a guy who had just about every awful happen to him and there was no one he could turn to.  For the last six years of his life, Leonard has had to shoulder an immense amount of pain and his own mother and father couldn't take the time to notice that their once happy son is nothing but an empty shell. The quote that shook my soul the most was:
These people we call Mom and Dad, they bring us into the world and they don't follow through with what we need, or provide answers at all really--it's a fend-for-yourself free-for-all in the end, and I;m just not cut out for that sort of living.
I cannot express how terrifying and painful it is to hear that so many young people, like Leonard, are  out there, all alone, exposed to the evils of this world, and have no one, or no where, to turn to. The reason why Leonard wants to kill Asher Beale is because adults not only warped, and ruined, noth Asher's and Leonard's innocence, it was the adults who turned a blind eye to everything that was happening to these children. After the abuse, Leonard has been slowly dying inside and it literally takes an almost murder/suicide for him to realize that that the people who should have protected, loved, and supported him throughout this whole ordeal weren't there. I thank God for people like Herr Silverman because it is their strength, love, patience, compassion, and faith is what gives teens like Leonard a way out. Although Leonard has a long way to go, he can now do it knowing that he doesn't have to endure the pain any more and hope for a better for life and a better future. This book will live with me for the rest of my life because I never, ever want this to happen to my own children and readers will feel the same way when they come across someone who is suffering like Leonard. If you know someone who is hurting, or wanting to hurt themselves, DO NOT IGNORE THEM and get them help. More importantly, if you are a victim of abuse, you did not deserve this and nor are you to blame. If you feel like hurting yourself, please seek help because you are precious to those who love you and and everyone around you.    

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Matthew Quick (aka Q) is the New York Times bestselling author of THE SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, which was made into an Oscar-winning film, and three young adult novels: SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR; BOY21; and FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK. His work has been translated into twenty-eight languages, received a PEN/Hemingway Award Honorable Mention, was an LA Times Book Prize finalist, a New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice, a #1 bestseller in Brazil, and selected by Nancy Pearl as one of Summer’s Best Books for NPR. His next two novels for adults, THE GOOD LUCK OF RIGHT NOW and LOVE MAY FAIL, are forthcoming from HarperCollins. All of Q’s books have been optioned for film.
Q spent the first few years of his life in Philadelphia before being raised just across the Delaware River in Oaklyn, New Jersey. He graduated from Collingswood High School (class of 1992) and La Salle University (class of 1996), where he double-majored in English and secondary education. He taught high school literature and film in southern New Jersey for several years, during which he coached soccer and basketball, chaperoned trips to Peru and Ecuador, initiated a pen-pal exchange with students in Namibia, and counseled troubled teens.
In 2004 Q made the difficult decision to leave teaching and pursue his dream of becoming a fiction writer. He received his Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Goddard College in 2007 and an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from La Salle University in 2013. He lives with his wife, novelist/pianist Alicia Bessette.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction


Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com

"Books like Quick's are necessary...We should be grateful for a book that gets kids, and the leaders they'll become, thinking about the problem now."—The New York Times

*"Quick's use of flashbacks, internal dialogue, and interpersonal communication is brilliant, and the suspense about what happened between Leonard and Asher builds tangibly. The masterful writing takes readers inside Leonard's tormented mind, enabling a compassionate response to him and to others dealing with trauma."—School Library Journal, starred review



*"Quick's attentiveness to these few key relationships and encounters gives the story its strength and razorlike focus...Through Leonard, Quick urges readers to look beyond the pain of the here and now to the possibilities that await."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Over the course of one intense day (with flashbacks), Leonard's existential crisis is delineated through an engaging first-person narrative supplemented with footnotes and letters from the future that urge Leonard to believe in a "life beyond the übermorons" at school. Complicated characters and ideas remain complicated, with no facile resolutions, in this memorable story."—The Horn Book

"...the novel presents a host of compelling, well-drawn, realistic characters-all of whom want Leonard to make it through the day safe and sound."—Kirkus

"Quick is most interested in Leonard's psychology, which is simultaneously clear and splintered, and his voice, which is filled with brash humor, self-loathing, and bucket loads of refreshingly messy contradictions, many communicated through Leonard's footnotes to his own story. It may sound bleak, but it is, in fact, quite brave, and Leonard's interspersed fictional notes to himself from 2032 add a unique flavor of hope."—Booklist

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Friday, February 14, 2014
Plot Summary:
Ivan has been at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade for most of his life. Things were a lot more exciting when Mack and Helen would treat him as their human child, but Ivan is older and yearning for the life he had before the Mall. Although he dreams of being with other gorillas, Ivan has a few friends who keep him company: Bob (the sarcastic, stray dog who sleeps on Ivan's Belly at night) and Stella (the wise and caring elephant and storyteller). The best part of Ivan's nights are when Julia, and her father, George, come to clean the Mall; George is the janitor and Julia helps when she can. Julia is an artist and Ivan loves art. Ever since he was a baby, Ivan always loved looking at colors, shapes, and even using mud to make his own drawings. Life for Ivan, before Mack, was perfect until he and his sister were taken from his troop and sold off. Although Ivan used to be the star of the Exit 8 Big Top, business has been slow and Mack has become more and frustrated. What's even harder is that Stella's past injuries are taking it's toll, but real problem is: Mack has bought a baby elephant and is bringing her to the Mall. Stella, furious and sad, takes the baby, named Ruby, in her care and acts as her surrogate mother. However, when Stella was unable to recover form her injuries, she made Ivan promise that he will care for Ruby. Ivan knows absolutely nothing about raising babies, but he knows everything about being a protector: silver back Gorillas have it imprinted in their DNA. In this story, a disillusioned Gorilla does the impossible to not only save an innocent elephant, but to convey that animals, just like humans, know what it's like to love and care for one another. 

Critical Evaluation:
Katherine Applegate has given a voice to one of the Earth's mightiest creatures and did it very well. The One and Only Ivan is actually based on a true story about a silver back gorilla, named Ivan, who was held captive for 37 years in a mall in Washington. After National Geographic aired a special on "The Urban Gorilla," the public was outraged and even young children wrote letters to have Ivan removed from the Mall. Eventually, the Mall went bankrupt and Ivan was moved to Zoo Atlanta where he lived out the rest of his lifedin harmony with his own kind until his death in 2012. Ivan was 50 years old and he continues to paint until his last breath. I absolutely loved what Applegate said about writing this book
"When I started to write about the grim facts of Ivan's solitary existence, a new tale slowly began to take shape. At least on the page, where anything is possible, I wanted to give Ivan (even while captive behind the walls of his tiny cage) a voice of his own and a story to tell. I wanted to give him someone to protect, and the chance to be the mighty silverback he was always meant to be." 
What we human tend to forget is that animals have their own consciousnesses, their own identities, and their very unique abilities. When I hear about animals, like Ivan, it is incredibly upsetting because these animals were not made to be pets nor side show attractions; wild animals are a part of this world for a specific person and we, humans, have only one purpose: observe and learn. As readers find out what happens to Ivan's families, they will be in for a shock at the current reality that all of the world's gorillas face. As Ivan re-lives these awful remembers, he becomes determined to not let Ruby waste away in the mall like he has. Unlike the Ivan, the story's Ivan is given the opportunity to be just like his father and protect little Ruby. In fact, Ivan and Ruby have so much in common, it was inevitable that he would predict Stella's wish for him to protect Ruby. The ending is absolutely beautiful so be sure to have the tissues handy. 

Information about the Author:
According to her website:

I've written many books for children and young adults, including The Buffalo Storm (a picture book), Roscoe Riley Rules (a chapter book series), and Animorphs (which I wrote with my husband, Michael Grant.) My novel Home of the Brave was awarded the 2008 Golden Kite Award for Best Fiction, the Bank Street 2008 Josette Frank Award for children's fiction, and was a Judy Lopez Memorial Award honor book.

I live in California with my husband, two children, and assorted pets.

Genre:
Tween Fiction

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4-7

Books Similar to The One and Only Ivan:

Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:
School Library Journal Best of Children's Books 2012

Kirkus Reviews Best of Children's Books 2012

Amazon 2012 Best Books of the Year, Middle Grade

Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2012

New York Public Library 100 Books for Reading and Sharing, 2012

Cybils shortlist, 2012 middle grade fantasy (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards)

Texas Bluebonnet Award, 2013-14 Master List

2012 Nerdies Book Award, middle grade fiction

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews:
"How Ivan confronts his harrowing past yet stays true to his nature exemplifies everything youngsters need to know about courage.”

Starred Review, School Library Journal: 
“The characters will capture readers’ hearts and never let go.  A must-have.”

Starred Review, Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books: 
“Extraordinary.”

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Plot Summary:
R misses many things, but the thing his misses the most is his own name. After being transformed into a zombie, the hustle and bustle of his former life has changed, significantly, and the only thing he looks forward to is standing still and looking at the desolate world. R lives in an abandoned hanger of an airport with his good friend M. Just like R, M is still in the early stages of decay and the have the ability to moan and groan and to form a zombie language. Inside of his head, R is alive and filled with ideas and coherent speech, but his body won't allow him to say the things he want to say. Although being a zombie is pretty easy, the days just get longer and longer. Another downside to being a zombie, other than not being able to talk, read, or remember names, is eating. R doesn't like hearing the cries and the pain that comes from his meal, but the only thing he takes pleasure in is eating the brains of his prey; by eating the brains, he can absorb the memories of that person. Although R has established his ranks in the zombie community (he has a wife and two kids), something is still missing. On a routine hunting, something inside R makes him ravenous and when he eats the brain of a young man named Perry, R has devoured everything that makes Perry who he is. After re-living Perry's memories, the ones that stick out the most are of of Julie. Julie was Perry's everything and now that he is a part of R, R chooses to protect her.  After saving her from his horde of hungry zombies, Julie actually follows R and discovers that zombies are not what them seem; at least this one tries to talk to her, has a great collection of Frank Sinatra LP's, and is actively protecting to her. The question that nags at her is "why?" Why is R protecting a girl he doesn't know, but is attracted to because of the brain he consumed? Lastly, something about him is changing and he doesn't know why. 

Critical Evaluation:
The writing in this book is just brilliant! I will confess that I did see the movie, before reading the book, and I am pretty impressed with how true the film is to the book. However, I am not here to review the movie, I am here to talk about the book. Warm Bodies is more than a story about a boy who meets a girl. This story is about self-discovery and, in R's case, recovering everything he has lost. Just like John Gardner's Grendel, readers will get a unique insight into the mind of the undead and identify with it in so many ways. Although zombies are nothing more than an urban legend, the question is, if they did exist, will the be like R? What I find entertaining about this story is that there is a very thin line between the living in the dead; although R is dead, he takes it upon himself to stop and observe the life around him. For most living people, we are too busy to even notice the landscape that surrounds us or if your co-worker is going through a hard time. Even now, I feel like a zombie because I am sitting at any empty desk waiting for the hours to go by so I can go home. At some point in time, R was a living person, like we are, but, now that he is dead, he has a huge appreciation for everything around him including the ability to speak. R wants to communicate so bad, but his body won't let him. I loved it when he said that being a zombie was easy, but, being human, is never easy. As for Julie, who is the complete opposite of R (besides a pulse), has no idea what to think or understand why a zombie would protect her. The more she gets to know R, the more she realizes that he is not just a zombie, but a friend and confidant. When R risks his undead existence to get Julie, will not only have readers cheering, but melt the hearts of cynical readers.

Information about the Author:
According to his website:
Isaac Marion was born near Seattle in 1981 and has lived in and around that city ever since. He began writing in high school and self-published three novels before finally breaking through with Warm Bodies. He currently divides his time between writing, playing obscure instruments in obscure bands, and exploring the country in a 1977 GMC motorhome named Baleen.
 
Genre:
Fiction, Romance, Horror

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up


Books Similar to Warm Bodies:
Awards & Recognition:
From Amazon.com:
“Elegantly written, touching, and fun.”
(Audrey Niffenegger, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Time Traveler's Wife)

“Dark and funny.”
(Wired)

Warm Bodies is a terrific zombook.  Whether you're warm-bodied or cold-bodied, snuggle up to it with the lights low and enjoy a dead-lightful combination of horror and romance.”
(Examiner.com)

“The writing is lively, the characters intriguing, and the creative reinvention of popular themes is thought-provoking.”
(Commonsensemedia.org)

“Compulsively readable.”
(Thereadinggate.com)

“A masterfully crafted retelling of Romeo & Juliet.”
(Goodereads.com)

“Remarkable.  From the very first page you are hooked on protagonist R’s story. You actually care about R.  Yes, you find yourself really caring about a zombie.”
(Teenlitrocks.com)

“Fun and entertaining.”
(Gliterarygirl.com)

“Marion’s novel is even better [than the movie], digging deep into sardonic observations about humanity, comic takes on zombie behavior and stirring reflections on what it really means to be alive or dead.”
(Seattle Times)

“Artful.”
(The Onion A.V. Club)

“Highly original.”
(Seattletimes.com)

Warm Bodies by Issac Marion

Posted by Deborah Takahashi
Tag :, Tag :, Tag :
Plot Summary:
It all started with a squirrel who got sucked up in a vacuum and turned into a superhero. Before his accidental sucking up, Mrs. Tickham was well into her favorite volume of poetry when Mr. Tickham gave her the Ulysses 2000 X vacuum as a present. Not only was this vacuum super sucky, it was multi-terrain! However, when Mr. Tickham turned on the super sucky vacuum, it took ohf with Mrs. Tickham straight into Flora's yard. What should have been a quiet day with her favorite comic The Illuminated Adventures of the Great Incandesto, Flora saw Mrs. Tickham being dragged by a crazy vacuum that was headed straight to a poor, innocent bystander: a squirrel. In a flurry, Flora did everything she could to warn the squirrel, but it was too late...he was being inhaled by the Ulysses 2000X and was kaput. However, Flora read in in a bonus comic of The Illuminated Adventures of the Great Incandesto called the Terrible Things That Can Happen To You how to perform CPR and that is exactly what she did. After resuscitating the former dead squirrel, a miracle occurred...the squirrel had somehow developed a consciousnesses and abilities such as super strength and he can now understand human speech. When Flora explained to Mrs. Tickham that the squirrel, named Ulysses, after his metal maker, was now a superhero like The Great Incandesto, she read to him from her poetry book, which stirred something deep inside of Ulysses: he loved words. Furthermore, when Flora took him home, Ulysses discovered her mother's typewriter, which revealed yet another super power: HE CAN TYPE! Flora decided to take him in under her wing to help him develop his new found powers just like Dolores, the parakeet, from The Illuminated Adventures of the Great Incandesto. However, Flora and Ulysses face a variety of obstacles that another bonus comic, entitled The Criminal Element, has predicted starting with Ulysses arch nemesis who has set out to separate Ulysses from Flora and ultimately destroy him! Holy Bagumba! Will our dynamic duo be able to escape their arch nemesis named "MOM!?!"

Critical Evaluation:
Kate DiCamillo has done it, AGAIN, in making me love everything about her stories. DiCamillo takes some very tough issues such as divorce, broken families, parental neglect, and the onset of adolescence and wraps them up in a funny, yet well-written story of a genuine friendship between a young girl and a squirrel. For Ulysses, he has never known what it's like to be human, in the sense, that he now has a conscience and sudden urge to express himself; everything used to be about food, but it's now about being alive. Although being sucked in a vacuum, and a near death experience, would rattle anyone, this incident has given an animal (that most people neglect) a new purpose in life: to be the superhero that saves everyone in the end. Along with this amazing friendship, Flora, a self-professed cynic, is starting to change because she, like Ulysses, is more aware of her surroundings and herself: Flora realizes how much she misses her father and how lonely she is. Although Flora's mother is the arch nemesis of the story, it's obvious her mother is also still grieving from the divorce, but is unable to express herself to her daughter so she throws herself into her work. It's not until the end of the story that she realizes the error of her ways, but, in the meantime, Flora feels that her mother loved her cheesy lamp than her; Flora's father, who has spent many nights on Mrs. Meescham's horsehair couch,  crying his eyes out because he is separated from his little girl, is also unable to relay his feelings to Flora (he's a pro at evading questions). Clearly, the adults, even Mrs. Meescham, are nuttier than Ulysses breath, but with Ulysses and William Spiver, Flora finally learns that she isn't alone, which not makes her happy, but a little less cynical. The best part of this story are the comics that K.G. Campbell has drawn because he captures not only the mood, and comedy, of the story, but the softness of the penciled comics conveys the fragility of both Ulysses and Flora who want nothing more than to be loved. This really is a sweet story and I giggled quite a bit simply because of all the "Holy Unanticipated Occurrences!" that occurred, a young finally realizes just how loved she really is.

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
I was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, raised in Clermont, Florida, and currently live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I write for both children and adults and I like to think of myself as a storyteller.

Here are a few more facts about me: I am short. And loud. I hate to cook and love to eat. I am single and childless, but I have lots of friends and I am an aunt to three lovely children (Luke, Roxanne, and Max) and one not so lovely dog (Henry).

I think of myself as an enormously lucky person: I get to tell stories for a living.

Genre:
Tween Fiction, Tween Adventure

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 4-6


Books Similar to The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses:

Awards & Recognition:
  • 2014 John Newbery Medal Award Winner 
From Amazon.com:
Newbery-winner DiCamillo is a master storyteller not just because she creates characters who dance off the pages and plots, whether epic or small, that never fail to engage and delight readers. Her biggest strength is exposing the truths that open and heal the human heart. She believes in possibilities and forgiveness and teaches her audience that the salt of life can be cut with the right measure of love.
—Booklist (starred review)

Original, touching and oh-so-funny tale starring an endearingly implausible superhero and a not-so-cynical girl.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Despite supremely quirky characters and dialogue worthy of an SAT prep class, there’s real emotion at the heart of this story involving two kids who have been failed by the most important people in their lives: their parents.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Rife with marvelously rich vocabulary reminiscent of the early superhero era (e.g., "Holy unanticipated occurrences!") and amusing glimpses at the world from the point of view of Ulysses the supersquirrel, this book will appeal to a broad audience of sophisticated readers. There are plenty of action sequences, but the novel primarily dwells in the realm of sensitive, hopeful, and quietly philosophical literature.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

Eccentric characters, snappy prose and the fantastical plot give this delightful novel a giddy, over-the-top patina, but the core is big and hopeful, contemplative and bursting with heart. No small feat, even for a superhero like DiCamillo.
—Shelf Awareness

In "Flora and Ulysses," longtime fans will find a happy marriage of Mercy Watson's warmth and wackiness and Edward Tulane's gentle life lessons. In Flora, they will find a girl worth knowing, and one they will remember.
—The New York Times Book Review

[L]augh-out-loud funny, tender, difficult and hopeful all at once. ... Cynics beware, this book is meant for those open to joy, wonder, loyalty and friendship of all stripes.
—The Huffington Post

This is a fun and clever tale of an unlikely hero uniting an even more unlikely cast of characters. Kate DiCamillo strikes again. Each character is well-drawn, the story is packed with fun references and asides. It's a perfect blend of poignancy and magic.
—Fall 2013 Parents' Choice Book Awards

DiCamillo does here what she does best, which is tell a deceptively simple story that elucidates big truths. ...
Though their adventures are wild and wacky, the heart of the story is about a girl adrift and how she finds her way home. Pencil illustrations and comic book panels by K.G. Campbell complement Kate DiCamillo's text perfectly. After reading Flora and Ulysses, you'll be asking when the next installment is due.
—NPR Books
Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Plot Summary:
It's another school year for Park and all wants is to remain under the radar. However, when Eleanor boarded the bus, his life was about to change. Eleanor, the big girl with crazy red hair, is not only the new kid, but the prime target for any bully, especially Tina and Steve. As Eleanor searched for a seat, no one was willing to give her one. Out of frustration, and possibly pity, Park let her sit to next to him. However, he was far from a gentlemen because, before offering her a seat, he cursed at her and looked away. Life for Eleanor is very similar to the incident on the bus. After moving to a new home, Eleanor has to endure her stepfather (whom she does not get along with) and four younger siblings. Eleanor has never had her own room and all she has to her name are a few items that managed to make the move. Life was miserable and the only way should could control herself is to bury herself in books and music. Park really didn't mean to be cruel to Eleanor. In fact, Park has his own issues such as being bi-racial, having a younger brother who is taller than he is, and his uber macho father who can't seem to let Park's oddities alone. Park has always felt he could never fit in so he put up with the ignorant remarks and the stereotypes. Although he yelled at Eleanor, the first time they met, they have been able to form an understanding through comic books, mixed tapes, and short, quiet conversations, which ultimately to the inevitable: falling in love. However, Eleanor doesn't know how to explain to Park how terrible her home life is and that their relationship has to remain a secret. For Park, it's only a matter of time before he explodes because he wants more than anything to protect Eleanor. Despite all of the problems, Eleanor and Park have discovered what it means to be alive and themselves when they are together. This is story of first love, but like Romeo and Juliet, there is an immense amount of heartache as well. 

Critical Evaluation:
Rainbow Rowell has written a romance that everyone has experienced. Not only is this story directed at teens, adults will fall in love with it as well simply because we were all teenagers once. Eleanor & Park are average teens who have their own share of problems, but, all of those memories and pain disappears when they are together. Park admits to Eleanor that he needs her because she is the only person who understands him. For Eleanor, Park is the escape she needs because he is the only person who sees beyond her size and hair color. However, Park has what Eleanor does not, which is a stable home life. Because of Eleanor's abusive stepfather and abused mother, she cannot have luxuries such as comic books, music, and even a toothbrush. Although this is none of her fault, she cannot be honest with Park because she is ashamed of her situation. Granted, she loves her siblings more than anything, she wants nothing more but to get away from it all and Park gives her that chance by letting her live in his world (even if it's for a moment or two). I fell in love Park,myself, when he ended up beating up Steve for insulting Eleanor; it's not every day your boyfriend risks suspension, a swollen eye, and a broken nose to defend your honor. It was at that point that Eleanor realized that someone as cool as Park could love her and maybe, just maybe, that life would give her a break. Sadly, life is never that simple, especially when the people that were supposed to take of her are abusive,submissive, and dismissive. I wanted nothing than to crawl into this book and hold onto Eleanor and her siblings because all of them deserved so much more and, unfortunately, children do not get to chose their parents. This is the type of book where readers will want curl up on my couch and devour it because everything in this story is real; teens and adults know what it's liked to be love, to be bullied, to feel scared, and to feel that things seem hopeless. However, this story also shows what it's like to be crazy happy. This books has managed to transform me into the 16 year old girl I was knew and it was because of her that I feel that Eleanor and Park will have the happy ending that we all dream of. 

Information about the Author:
According to her website:
Rainbow Rowell writes books.
Sometimes she writes about adults (Attachments and Landline).
Sometimes she writes about teenagers (Eleanor & Park and Fangirl).
But she always writes about people who talk a lot. And people who feel like they’re screwing up. And people who fall in love.
When she’s not writing, Rainbow is reading comic books, planning Disney World trips and arguing about things that don’t really matter in the big scheme of things.
She lives in Nebraska with her husband and two sons.

Genre:
Teen Contemporary Fiction, Teen Romance

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 10 & up

Books Similar to Eleanor & Park:

Awards & Recognition:
According to Amazon.com:

"This sexy, smart, tender romance thrums with punk rock and true love."
-- Gayle Forman, bestselling author of If I Stay

“Funny, hopeful, foulmouthed, sexy, and tear-jerking, this winning romance will captivate teen and adult readers alike.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Eleanor & Park is a breathless, achingly good read about love and outsiders.”
Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door

“The pure, fear-laced, yet steadily maturing relationship Eleanor and Park develop is urgent and breathtaking and, of course, heartbreaking, too.”—Booklist (starred review)

“Sweet, gritty, and affecting . . . Rainbow Rowell has written an unforgettable story about two misfits in love. This debut will find its way into your heart and stay there.”
--Courtney Summers, author of This Is Not a Test and Cracked Up to Be

“Rowell keeps things surprising, and the solution maintains the novel’s delicate balance of light and dark.” –Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“In her rare and surprising exploration of young misfit love, Rowell shows us the beauty in the broken.”—Stewart Lewis, author of You Have Seven Messages

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Posted by Deborah Takahashi

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Deborah Takahashi
Alhambra, CA, United States
Hola! My name is Deb and I am the Teen Library Assistant at the Alhambra Civic Center Library. I absolutely love to read and recommend books to readers of all ages. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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