Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Singled Out by Sara Griffiths

Taylor is a great pitcher who hoped to get a baseball scholarship for college.  However as she slacked off in school work and her grades went down scouts stopped coming to see her play.  During summer league she was offered a chance to attend an elite all boys school for her senior year and to try out for their outstanding baseball team. Hoping that was her ticket to college she accepted.  As one of only three girls now enrolled in Hazelton Taylor faced many challenges.  Some boys at the school were not happy with girls being allowed in and began pulling stunts to jeopardize the girls.  They successfully set up one and she was discharged and later scared off another.  Sam, one of the boys in the group decides to help Taylor and although she doubts his sincerity at first they work together to keep Taylor safe.

Singled Out is a fun, quick read.  Taylor has so many obstacles in her way but she manages to stay calm and focused in every situation.  Taylor's dad is a very supportive parent and only a phone call away (the school is a boarding school.)  Sam is a boy most girls would love to have on their side and as a boyfriend. I thorougly enjoyed Singled Out and plan on reading Thrown a Curve, also by Sara Griffths. I recommend it for fans of baseball stories, teen romance and reluctant readers. 

Read as an ebook arc courtesy of Bancroft Press via Netgalley.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall

Written in free verse Under the Mesquite is the story of Lupe and her family not only dealing with her mother's illness and death but it is also a view into the life of Mexican-Americans.  Wanting their children to have a good education and a better life than possible in Mexico, the family moves to a border town in Texas although they visit their relatives often.  We learn about the move, the birth of more siblings, the dad working far away, the siblings relationships, the mom's illness and the aftermath of her death.  The writing is beautiful and sprinkled with spanish words and phrases.

Since I now work in a school with many native Spanish speaking students I have already introduced this book to some students.  Many have never read a book written in this style and between that and the Spanish they are lining up to check it out.  Recommended for 5th grade and up.

Read it as an arc courtesy of Lee & Low Books via Netgalley.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Planet Middle School by Nikki Grimes

Told in short poems Planet Middle School explores so many themes it's hard to believe the book is only 154 pages and a delightfully quick read.  Joylin is a tomboy and an awesome basketball player.  She tries to teach her artist younger brother to play in the hope that their dad will notice him more.  She's dealing with her body changing against her will and her best friends (one a boy, one a girl) are trying to make her understand she's still the same person.  She's experiencing her first crush.

This book is recommended for girls in grades 6 and up.  Reluctant readers will be drawn to it's quick pace and easy to read style while appreciating Nikki Grimes' understanding of what tweens/young teens are going through.  I laughed and cried and loved it from the opening poem to the closing one.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Hidden by Helen Frost

When she was 8, Wren was in a car at a gas station (her mom ran in to pay for gas and a drink) that was stolen during a robbery. Hiding in the back the driver never knew she was there and she stayed hidden for two days in his garage. The man's daughter, Darra, also 8, discovered Wren and left her food and planned to help her. Wren overhears the abuse Darra and her mom receive from the dad. Wren manages to escape and Darra always wonders how and blames Wren for her dad going to jail. Six years later the two girls meet face to face for the first time in a sleep-a-way summer camp. At camp, Wren and Darra take turns telling their story.

Helen Frost has crafted an amazing work of fiction. Told in two voices the first being Wren's in free verse. Darra's is written in a form that Frost devised herself. You read about this in a "notes on form" section at the end. Then, you need to reread part of the book to see what she has "hidden" for us to help understand even more of the story. That is what takes this from a very good book to an amazing piece of work.

Recommended for readers who enjoy novels written in free verse or are looking for something new. Recommended for reluctant readers as the story moves along at a nice pace and is only 145 pages. While it is contemporary it could also pass for adventure if your readers are looking for something in that genre.  It is truly a remarkable book.