Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Melody has a photographic memory; she remembers everything she hears. She is insanely smart - the only thing is no one else knows. Melody can't speak, walk, or even eat on her own because she has cerebral palsy. Unfortunately, no one knows the "real" Melody.

She is in a special class in school with other students with disabilities. Teachers come and go with very little consistency; Melody is so very tired of learning the alphabet year after year. There is no interaction with other students in school until the school begins a new inclusion program where Melody and several other students from her class are integrated into several mainstream classes.

Told from Melody's point of view, this is the story of how Melody goes from the girl in a wheelchair who cannot speak, to a valuable member of the school's competitive quiz team.

Melody's journal is not without many bumps in the road. Not every student is willing to look beyond Melody's disabilities. And many times this book made me very angry, but I am so very glad I read it.

Out of My Mind made me look at myself and wonder if I have ever prejudged someone; I'm sure I have, but this book has made me very aware that I never want to do it again.

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Laureth's father has gone missing. He is not returning any of her texts, and her mother doesn't know where he is and doesn't seem to care. Laureth and her younger brother need to find him. The only clue they have is an email from a "Mr. Walker" who says he found her father's notebook. The problem is the notebook was found in New York City, far away from their home in London.

However, the biggest obstacle they face is that Laureth is blind. She must navigate the airport and New York City with just her young brother Benjamin leading the way.

Once in New York the suspense builds as Laureth and Benjamin try to find their father using very bizarre and disturbing clues they read in his journal.

This is a rather quick read. I would love to know what students think of the ending. So, please, let me know when you finish this book!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Maybe One Day by Melissa Kantor

Calling all fans of The Fault in Our Stars ... you will love Maybe One Day!

Olivia and Zoe are best friends. They attend high school and ballet school together and have plans to go to New York City to join a professional ballet company. Their plans change when they are told they don't have a future in ballet and are dismissed from their school.

This becomes the least of their problems, however, when Livvie is diagnosed with cancer. Maybe One Day is the emotional story of true friendship and how two teenagers and their families deal with a life-altering event.

Although it's very emotional, there is also some romance and some light-hearted moments, too. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written story, but I did need some tissues close by.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Guitar Notes by Mary Amato

Tripp and Lyla are about as different as two people can get. Tripp uses the practice room to escape from his home life as he pours everything he has into the guitar.

 Perfect Lyla must share the practice room with Tripp on even days. She is a terrific student and award-winning cellist who is competing to get accepted at The Coles Conservatory of Music.

When Lyla arrives at the practice room and finds it a mess, with crumpled leftovers from Tripp's lunch, she's upset and leaves him a note:

Dear Odd Day Musician,
     We are sharing this room. Please remove your trash from the music stand when you are done.
-The Even Day Musician

And then finds his reply:

Dear Ms. Even Day,
     Thank you so much for the little note you left in the guitar case.
     The napkin that I left on the music stand was not trash. I wrote a chord progression on it. Did you throw it away in your quest for a perfect spotless world?
     Most Sincerely,
     Mr. Odd Day
     P.S. Please do not leave negative Even Day vibes all over the room. They will soak into this guitar, which will ruin it. Please clean up after yourself.

This Nutmeg nominee for 2014 is funny, engaging, and terribly sad. Anyone interested in music will love it, but even if you are not a musician, there is much that will engage you in this book.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry

Kayla, Gabie, and Drew all work at Pete's Pizza. One night Kayla goes on a delivery and doesn't come back. This novel becomes even more intense when we find out that the man who ordered the pizza asked if the girl with the Mini Cooper was delivering pizzas that night. Fortunately for Gabie, the owner of the Mini Cooper, she switched nights with Kayla and Gabie was home and not working that night. Did the kidnapper take the wrong girl?

 But since Gabie was the intended victim, is she next? And is Kayla safe?

Students who like scary, intense books, will love this one. Other students may have nightmares, so be aware - this book may be too intense for some students.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

Darcy is just 18 years old and a writer. Her novel is actually getting published! When she moves to New York instead of attending college, her parents are concerned but allow her to go and live on the advance money from her publisher.

The tag-line on the novel's cover really says it all:

Darcy writes the words.
   Lizzie lives them.

Both Darcy and Lizzie tell their stories in alternating chapters. The book begins when Lizzie survives a horrible terrorist attack at the airport. She plays dead and is the only survivor. Yami, an afterworld guide, arrives to help her navigate this strange ethereal world.

Chapters and events interweave and it is so interesting following the stories of both girls. This is a "smart" novel. One that you need to think about when you read. Students who like to write or are interesting in writing and the publishing world will love this novel. English teachers will LOVE this novel.

There is romance throughout the novel including same sex dating. If your parents don't want you to read books with foul language, you may want to put this novel on hold for a few years. But over-all, many students will love following Lizzie's adventures in the underworld and Darcy's adventures in New York.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Final Four by Paul Volponi

March Madness has begun! Michigan is heavily favored to win, but Troy State has heart.

The entire book takes place in the time span of a single game. As the announcer does his exciting play-by-play throughout the game, the back story of four key players is also told.

 This is not only the story of two very different teams, but also the story of four very different basketball players. Malcolm is from the inner-city, is VERY talented, and is called "one and done" because of his plans to join the NBA after his freshman year.

Roco Bacic is from the war-ravaged country of Croatia where his uncle, a journalist, was killed by a car bomb. Basketball is his ticket to freedom and an education.

Along with the basketball action, there are also some very pertinent issues explored in this novel. Universities make millions off the ticket sales, etc. of their varsity teams, but the players (many of whom come from very limited economic families) go through their college careers without being able to profit at all.

This was a riveting read. Basketball fans will especially enjoy this novel, but I think most everyone will be drawn into the back stories of these players. Some foul language