Elem. – Talking Is Not My Thing

Robbins, Rose. Talking Is Not My Thing. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-802-85549-7. Unpaged. $16.99. Grades K-2.

Talking Is Not My Thing follows a brother and sister, the sister being nonverbal; however, there are thought bubbles so you can see her thoughts even though she doesn’t have any dialogue. The sister mentions that she tries to speak; however, “the words don’t’ come out right”; as well as showing her being overwhelmed by too much noise and wishing she could turn her ears off. Near the end of the book, the sister can’t find her stuffed bunny, so she runs outside to get it causing her brother to follow her in the dark with a flashlight.

THOUGHTS: This book does an excellent job of showing how nonverbal children communicate with the world around them as well as each other.

Picture Book           Mary Hyson, Lehigh Valley Regional Charter Academy

Elem. – Can I Play Too?

Cotterill, Samantha. Can I Play Too? Dial Books for Young Readers, 2020. 978-0-525-55346-5. $14.81. Unpaged. Grades PreK-1. 

Two young boys build a train track, but things start to sour when one friend’s vision of a perfect train setup doesn’t include his pal’s opinions or choices. A scuffle ensues, and both friends are upset and frustrated. A helpful grown-up steps in and uses a train-themed picture book to explain, “Friends have traffic signals too.” Thoughtful discussion and role-playing help the boys learn about flexibility and social cues, and a second try at playing trains goes much smoother. Created by an author/illustrator on the spectrum, “Can I Play Too?” is part of Samantha Cotterill’s “Little Senses” series. The dust jacket says, “…Samantha wanted to make books that would allow kids to recognize themselves in a playful, fun, yet therapeutic way.” Each title in the series explores a topic that might be relatable for kids on the autism spectrum or kids with sensory issues, although “Can I Play Too?” works well on a social-emotional curriculum too.  

THOUGHTS: Pencil and ink illustrations using traffic light colors support the theme of traffic signals used by trains and friends. An excellent series for all young kids.

Picture Book          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

MG – Can You See Me?

Scott, Libby, and Rebecca Westcott. Can You See Me? Scholastic.2020. 978-1-338-60891-5. 358 p. $16.99. Grades 6-8.

Co-authored by Rebecca Westcott and Libby Scott, an eleven-year old neuro-diverse girl, Can You See Me? uniquely captures the inner feelings of Tally Adams, an autistic British sixth grader. Through Tally’s eyes, the reader learns of the frustrations and perceptions an autistic person experiences navigating teachers, friends, and family while transitioning to the more sophisticated world of middle school. Luke, a classmate suffering from his own trauma, bullies Tally because he unwittingly views her autism as weird. Tally receives the brunt of Luke’s anger and loses her few friends when she tells the teacher Luke stole the answers to an upcoming quiz. As Tally tries to fit in at school and adjust her behavior at home, she finds comfort and courage in wearing a tiger mask and companionship in the old, three-legged dog the family is taking care of for their elderly, sick neighbor. Tally is a treasured part of a loving and supportive family, but she sometimes tries the patience of her father and older sister, Nell. Westcott and Scott do a fine job creating a window into the world of autism as well as providing tips for how to cope best with the autistic personality (both Tally’s mother and a sympathetic drama teacher are pros). After selected chapters, Tally as narrator relates excerpts from her journal which gauge her anxiety level and note the pros and cons of autism. Though the ending is somewhat abruptly idealistic–Tally’s fair-weather, catty friends proclaim that they need her and one even confesses she told the entire class Tally is autistic. Tally’s response to both, though, is authentic. She tells the girl that the information was not hers to share and she refuses to offer the girls the cookies her mother suggests she share. Overall, this book gives a particular view of autism not seen in other novels that can lead to understanding and rich discussion.

THOUGHTS: Mockingjay, A Boy and a Bat, Al Capone Does My Shirts, Rain Reign. . . no shortage of books featuring a person with autism. In Can You See Me? however, the reader can relate not only to the behaviors associated with autism, but also with the times any of us have been called out for our quirks or feeling different or not fitting in. This book is ideal for character studies, even for comparing it with R. J. Palacio’s format of Wonder: How does Tally’s sister Nell feel always sacrificing her needs for Tally? Why is it difficult for Tally’s friend, Layla, to stay loyal to Tally?, etc. The title and cover refer to the tiger mask Tally sometimes dons when she needs to face hard situations. The cover art is so busy, the background obscures the title of the book; though that may be the goal, the artwork looks amateurish and the result makes the cover forgettable.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Elem. – Rating Your Bunkmates and Other Camp Crimes

Orr, Jennifer. Rating Your Bunkmates and Other Camp Crimes. Capstone Editions, 2020. 978-1-68446-077-9. 239 p. $16.95. Grades 3-6.

Abigail Hensley is a twelve-year old genius who knows a lot about everything – anthropology, criminal trials, even the French language. Skipping two grades in school means she knows a lot more than other girls her age. Abigail also knows herself – she doesn’t like others intruding on her personal space and she has a definite aversion to germs. The one topic Abigail doesn’t know much about is how to make real friends. All of that is going to change, however, when she arrives at Camp Hollyhock, determined to make a real friend for the first time in her life. Like any good anthropologist, Abigail uses scientific research methods and writes detailed notes as she studies her cabinmates for their sidekick potential. Although her observations are off to a good start, she is thrown off from her meticulous plans when a crime is committed in her own cabin – and she becomes the prime suspect. Abigail has to use her research methods and observations so she can clear her name and hopefully make a friend before her time at camp is done, even if the answers she seeks may be the opposite of what she thinks.

THOUGHTS: Although author Jennifer Orr doesn’t make it clear in the book, Abigail could be on the autism spectrum, which is evident as she hates invasion of her personal space and struggles to understand social norms. However, Abigail’s journey to make a friend can ring true for any middle grade reader, genius or not. Her scientific commentary on the nuances of young female friendships are humorous yet relatable. All readers can understand that friendship may not be an exact science, but when the elements align, it can be quite wonderful.

Mystery Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Ephrata Area SD

Upper Elem/MS FIC – Emma Moves In; Matylda; Watchdog; One Good Thing…

Hutton, Clare. Emma Moves In (American Girl: Like Sisters #1). Scholastic, 2017. 978-1-338-11499-7. $6.99. 188 p. Gr. 3-5.

Emma, an only child, adores the time she spends with her twin cousins, Natalia and Zoe. When her parents decide to leave their Seattle home and move across the country into her mother’s family homestead, Emily’s secret dream comes true: she will be living in the same town as her cousins. However, the transition is more difficult than Emily could have imagined. When school starts, she realizes her cousins have different personalities, different groups of friends, and finds herself awkwardly pulled between the sisters. Additionally, Emily’s father is still in Seattle, and the extended separation is adding to the stress Emily and her mom are experiencing. Was this move a huge mistake? THOUGHTS:  An exploration of the anxieties involved with moving and starting a new school. The secondary plotline concerning the escalating anger between Emily’s parents is also well portrayed. Emily exhibits good problem-solving skills in dealing with her cousins and hostile classmates but makes age-appropriate mistakes in dealing with the fear her parents are divorcing.   

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

McGhee, Holly M. Matylda, Bright and Tender. Candlewick, 2017. 978-0-7636-895-1-3. $16.99. 210 p. Gr. 3-6.

Sussy and Guy have been friends since kindergarten. The pair bonded over Mr. Potato Head and never looked back. The two know they just belong together, bringing out the best in each other. Towards the end of fourth grade, the pair decide they need a pet, something of their own for which to be responsible. Guy adores leopard geckos, so they purchase Matylda and go to work figuring out how to make her happy. But in a moment of pure Guy, tragedy strikes as the pair are riding their bikes to the pet store. Now Sussy channels her grief on to Matylda, becoming increasingly desperate and reckless in her need to hold on to Guy through the gecko.   THOUGHTS:  Sussy and Guy are memorable characters, and Sussy’s grief is tangible. Readers will root for her to find her way back into the world.  

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

McIntosh, Will.  Watchdog. Delacort, 2017.  978-1-5247-1384-3. $16.99. 192 p. Gr. 4-7.

Orphans Vick and Tara eke out a living by scavenging electronics parts to sell. The 13-year-old twins have been on their own since their mom died after being replaced at her job by a hairstyling robot. Although Tara is autistic, she is also a mechanical genius and tinkers with making a watchdog bot named Daisy. Unfortunately, the clever mechanical dog attracts the attention of Ms. Alba, who quickly puts the Vick and Tara to work in her bot-building sweatshop. After they manage to pull off an escape, Vick and Tara are on the run, with a price on their heads. However, a shadowy groups of teens who run a chop shop, stealing domestic robots to take apart and make watchdogs, come to the twins’ aid in their fight against the evil Ms. Alba. THOUGHTS:  A slightly dystopian setting with lots of action, sure to please those not ready to plunge into The Maze Runner or Hunger Games.  

Science Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

 

Freeman, Ruth. One Good Thing About America. Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3695-8. $16.95. 152 p. Gr. 3-7.

Nine-year-old Anais, her mother and brother Jean-Claud have recently arrived in the United States from Congo, escaping the violent, corrupt mining officials from whom her father and older brother are on the run. The book is a series of letters Anais writes her grandmother back in Congo. In each letter Anais attempts to find one good thing about America. Some days are easier than others to be positive, as the young girl battles a new language, new culture, new school and friends. Her missives reflect frustration when students at school laugh at her language mistakes, and a heart-wrenching moment when a friend’s parents exhibit blatant prejudice. The book is an insight into the struggles of the many immigrant students in our schools, highlighting the difficulties Anais’s mother experiences trying to find employment and housing, while maintaining stability for Anais and Jean-Claud. THOUGHTS:  A sweet book that thoughtfully illustrates a timely topic. Pair this book with Alan Gratz’s Refugee. While the afterward provides guidance to Anais’s broken English, a French-English pronunciation guide would have been extremely helpful. (She complains that her teacher can’t pronounce her name, but we are never given any guidance as to how her name would be pronounced.)

Realistic Fiction       Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor School District

YA FIC – Before I Let Go; Rules of Rain; Moxie; The Librarian of Auschwitz

Nijkamp, Marieke. Before I Let Go. Sourcebooks Fire, 2018. 978-1-492-64228-2. 368 p. $17.15. Gr. 10 and up.

Returning to Lost Creek, Alaska, for her best friend’s funeral after moving away several months ago, Corey is devastated. She never found the words to tell Kyra that there was a great big world outside of Lost, and now she’ll never have the opportunity. Guilt-ridden over never responding to Kyra’s letters, Corey doesn’t know what to expect in Lost. Lost isn’t what she remembers, and neither are the people that live there. The town that she once loved and that loved her seems like it’s hiding something. Determined to uncover the truth about Kyra’s death, Corey sets out on her own. Desperate to find answers before her return to Winnipeg and terrified for her safety, Corey races against the clock before her flight departs. Told in present tense, letters sent and unsent, and flashback narratives written in play format, Corey’s and Kyra’s stories unfold as Lost fights to keep its secrets.  THOUGHTS: The remote Alaskan wilderness amps up the creepy factor in this mystery. Through the emphasis on Kyra’s storytelling, readers will be compelled to learn what actually happened to her, but they may not feel fully invested in the novel, as the characters lack depth. Though identity and mental health issues are addressed, they are not at the center of the story. Before I Let Go is a good read for mystery fans and those interested in exploring the ways mental illness affects one’s life and experiences.

Mystery; Realistic Fiction    Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Scheier, Leah. Rules of Rain. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-65426-1. 384 p. $10.99. Gr. 10 and up.

The connection between twins can be unique. Add into the mix one twin has autism, and the dynamics are even more complicated. Rain’s entire life has revolved around her brother and helping him navigate the world. She has been Ethan’s voice and rock for so long that she knows no different.  Now teenagers, Rain and Ethan are beginning to grow into themselves and somewhat apart from each other. She is interested in cooking and blogging about obscure recipes, while he is fascinated by the inner workings of the human body. Rain and Ethan experience many firsts and learn a lot about each other and themselves. While Ethan seems to be thriving in his independence, it is Rain who begins to unravel. THOUGHTS: This is more than a coming of age story, and there are a lot of issues involved. At the heart of the novel twins are learning as much from each other as the world around them. Their twin/sibling relationship, autism, family dynamics/relationships, parent/child roles, divorce, bullying, underage drinking, as well as teen relationships (friendship and romantic). While other issues are present, to say more would spoil the surprise. Teens with complicated home lives and/or challenging sibling dynamics will like this character-driven novel. Some mature content makes this book more suited for high school readers.  

Realistic Fiction      Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

 

Mathieu, Jennifer.  Moxie.  Roaring Brook Press, 2017.  978-1-62672-635-2. 330 p.  $17.99.  Gr. 9-12.

Unlike her mother, who was a rebellious teenager, Vivian Carter has always kept to herself and followed the rules.  However, after witnessing incident after incident of sexism in her conservative Texas high school, none of which are corrected by the administration, she decides to take matters into her own hands.  Inspired by her mother’s Riot Grrrl zines of the nineties, Vivian creates and distributes an anonymous zine around her school, calling for all girls to take action in protest.  The movement gradually grows, with more and more girls participating in each new protest and some girls even taking their own actions to improve the misogynistic environment.  Inspiring and empowering, readers will keep turning pages in order to find out what the Moxie girls are going to do next–and whether or not they will be successful in changing their school’s culture. THOUGHTS: Because of its strong emphasis on feminism, I would recommend this book to teenage girls and/or those who enjoy reading fiction with strong female protagonists.  The novel would also be an excellent supplement for a social studies unit on women’s history, women’s rights, and/or social activism.  It would be sure to spark discussion and may even inspire students to conduct further research on the Riot Grrrl movement of the nineties.

Realistic Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area SD

 

Iturbe, Antonio. The Librarian of Auschwitz. Translated by Lilit Thwaites. Henry Holt and Company, 2017. 978-1627796187. 432 p. $19.99. Gr. 9-12.

Spanish author Antonia Iturbe tells a fictionalized story of the little-known “Librarian of Auschwitz,” a young girl whose task it was to protect the few books in the possession of Jews in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Dita Kraus arrives at Auschwitz after living in the Terezin Ghetto, and is “lucky” enough to be sent to the family camp instead of directly to the gas chambers. In this part of the camp, there is a school run by Freddy Hirsch, who sees in Dita a strong young woman willing to protect their beloved texts. The story moves back and forth between Dita’s life in the ghetto, the lives of other prisoners and Jews, and the backstory of the enigmatic Hirsch. The novel starts out slow and on occasion the language seems a bit stunted (which might be a result of reading it as a translation). However, the story and characters do shine through, and the reader becomes engrossed in this story of both the cultural and physical survival of a people. THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for high schools, especially to complement memoirs and other readings about the Holocaust.

Historical Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shadyside Academy

MS Fiction – See You in the Cosmos; Ashes to Asheville; Real Friends; All’s Faire in MS; Goldie Vance

Cheng, Jack. See You in the Cosmos. Dial Books, 2017. 978-0399-186370. $16.99. 314 pp. Gr. 5-8.

Alex Petrowski will tell you a lot about himself.  He loves astronomy, and he named his dog after his hero, Carl Sagan.  He plans to launch his rocket with recordings of himself on his ‘golden iPod.’ His dad died when he was too young to remember him, and his older brother Ronnie lives in L.A.  Ronnie doesn’t visit much, but he keeps track of their bills.  Alex is eleven but “more like thirteen in responsibility years,” considering he cooks and cares for Carl Sagan and his mom, who has a lot of quiet days and who doesn’t work or drive, and everything’s ok if he just stays out of her way.  So Alex begins the trip alone to the Albuquerque, NM, annual rocket launch and finds himself meeting many new people, considering many new things, and finding new friends.  A couple of recordings he wants to include on his iPod are of people in love, and it takes a while to discover just who that might be.  His launch is a failure, but with two helpful adults, he detours to Las Vegas to discover why his dad’s name and birthdate shows up at an address there.  He finds a family surprise, heads to L.A. for Ronnie, then back home where his mom has disappeared and an accident lands him in the hospital under social services radar.  Reminiscent of Counting by 7’s by Holly Goldberg Sloan for the bright, unflinchingly open narrator who navigates the world with autism and high amounts of optimism.  THOUGHTS: A thoughtful look at honesty, family and love, and what sacrifice and adulthood mean.  This is an unusual read for tweens who want something fresh and different.

Realistic Fiction     Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Dooley, Sarah. Ashes to Asheville.  G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2017. 978-0399-165047.  $16.99.  243 pp. Gr. 5-8.

Fella is hurting from the all-to-recent death of her Mama Lacy.  Her grandmother, Mrs. Madison, fought for custody of Fella, and the courts granted it, despite the fact that Fella has another mother, Mama Shannon, and sister, Zany.  Fella is still grieving and feeling out of place when late one night, Zany creeps into Mrs. Madison’s house and steals Mama Lacy’s ashes from the mantel then takes Fella and Mrs. Madison’s poodle with her.  Zany is on a mission to scatter Mama Lacy’s ashes in the last place she was happy, their old house in Asheville.  Fella isn’t so sure this is a good idea, isn’t sure she’s ready, and isn’t even fully dressed.  And so begins a road trip filled with difficult weather, an injured poodle, a thieving & grieving teenager, and too many stops along the way.  Zany, Fella, Mama Shannon, and Mrs. Madison are on track to come to terms with their loss if they can ever say what they really think and feel to each other.  THOUGHTS: This is a disappointing follow-up to Dooley’s deeply felt Free Verse (2016). The writing is slow, even for a road trip, and although the adults seem realistic enough, the sisters never fully gel.  

Realistic Fiction     Melissa Scott, Shenango Area School District

 

Hale, Shannon and LeUyen Pham. Real Friends. First Second Books, 2017. 978-162672-4167. $21.99.  207 pp. Gr. 5-9.  

Together, author Shannon Hale and illustrator LeUyen Pham deliver a wonderfully and tragically realistic tale of navigating friendships.  Based on Hale’s own experience and divided by her 2nd-6th grade school years and her significant friends, readers see the perfection of being understood by a best friend, the pain of a best friend moving, the tightrope-walking of being part of ‘the group,’ the pain of stigmatization, and hope from the potential for change.  Pham’s illustrations perfectly illuminate young Shannon’s emotions and thoughts.  Anyone who has ever had a best friend, struggled to make friends, been the outsider, or wondered where they fit in will find insight in this tough but smart book.  As Hale concludes: “Friendship in younger years can be especially hard because our worlds are small….If you haven’t found your ‘group’ yet, hang in there.  Your world will keep growing larger and wider.  You deserve to have real friends, the kind who treat you well and get how amazing you are.”  THOUGHTS: This will appeal to nearly every student in upper elementary or middle school and could help to give needed perspective about navigating friendships, however fulfilling or painful.   

Graphic Novel; Realistic Fiction      Melissa Scott, Shenango Area SD

 

Jamieson, Victoria. All’s Faire in Middle School. 978-0-5254-29988-2. 248 p. $20.99. Gr. 4-8.

Imogen’s entire family works at the Florida Renaissance Faire, and she and her brother have been  homeschooled there her entire life. Imogene decides that for 6th grade, she wants to go to middle school. Excited and nervous, Imogene navigates new friendships, mean teachers, confusing bullies, and social norms while trying to find a place to fit in. And while she has grown up at and loves the Renaissance Faire, she finds that fitting in might mean hiding something that’s a huge part of her. THOUGHTS: Another uniquely excellent from the author of Roller Girls. You won’t be able to keep this graphic novel on the shelves!

Graphic Novel; Realistic Fiction     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

I book talked this graphic novel that the beginning of the school year to our middle schoolers, and it has been consistently checked out ever since. I think kids really respond to Victoria Jamieson’s art and see themselves in the characters she creates. Our 6th graders also take a field trip to the Renaissance Faire, so many students seem interested in the content because of this. Overall, an excellent addition to our collection this year that I can’t recommend enough.

 

Larson, Hope. Goldie Vance, Volume 2. Boom! Box, 2017. 978-1-6088-6974-9. 112 p. $14.99. Gr. 6-9.

Goldie Vance returns in the second installment of this fun, retro detective series. Goldie is still working at her father’s Palm Springs resort as a valet and solving mysteries on the side. This time, a mysterious woman, wearing a spacesuit, is found on the resort beach with no memory of how she got there. While Goldie and the resort detective Walt try to track down this woman’s identity, Goldie’s best friend Cheryl grows distant, and Goldie realizes she’s hiding some secrets of her own. Goldie is determined to solve the mystery and get her best friend back. THOUGHTS: It’s refreshing to see a graphic novel that celebrates girl-on-girl crushes and diverse skin tones and body sizes. Another excellent addition to any graphic novel collection from Hope Larson.

Graphic Novel; Mystery     Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

MS Fiction – Same But Different; Save Me a Seat; Josh Baxter

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Peete, Holly Robinson, Ryan Elizabeth Peete, and RJ Peete.  Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0545-094689. $17.99. 183 pp. Gr. 5-12.

This insightful book presents the life of twin siblings, Charlie, who has autism, and Callie, who does not.  Through their separate voices, readers learn the difficulties of labels, of being the “special” one, of being the savior, of hating having “two moms.”  The love between Charlie and Callie is real, and they repeatedly voice their understanding of one another, despite not truly understanding everything the other experiences.  This is a work of fiction based upon the lives of brother and sister Ryan and RJ Peete; their mother provides the opening and closing letters.  The statistics she gives are sobering: one in sixty-eight children in the U.S. is diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, and an estimated fifty thousand of those turn eighteen annually (no pagination).  We all know and some may teach, or live with, a person with autism.  This book gives any of us a chance for greater compassion and understanding and patience for all of those involved.  Extensive resources section.  THOUGHTS: This book or excerpts from it could be used in language arts for examples of multiple perspective novels and a springboard for writing from various perspectives.  It could be used in counseling, learning support, or social sciences classes to explore societal interaction and friendship.  It may perhaps be most helpful to the siblings of those with autism, due to the unique status that autism brings to them and their families.  Pair with The Reason I Jump (2015) for another insider’s look at autism.  

Realistic Fiction (Autism)         Melissa Scott, Shenango High School

 

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Weeks, Sarah and Gita Varadarajan. Save Me A Seat. New York: Scholastic, 2016. 978-0-545-84660-8. 216 p. $16.99. Gr. 3-7.

Ravi and Joe are both kids in need of a friend; Ravi is a new student who just moved to New Jersey from India, and Joe is a quiet kid whose twin best friends moved away over the summer. It might seem like they would naturally gravitate towards each other, but Ravi was top dog at his school in India, and Joe is used to being the last one picked in gym class. He’s also used to bully Dillon Samreen and his sly brand of cruelty. Ravi thinks that Dillon will be his new best friend, but Joe quickly realizes that Ravi is just the next target for Dillon’s bullying. Both boys have a tough start to their fifth grade year for different reasons, but they come together for a common purpose and realize that they’re not so different after all. This is an excellent, quick read that alternates between Ravi and Joe’s perspectives and includes a glossary for each boy (especially helpful for Ravi, who uses a lot of Indian words in describing his food, home life, etc.). THOUGHTS: Another winner from Weeks and newcomer Varadarajan; Ravi and Joe are as real as fifth graders come and your students will find themselves in the midst of a very believable elementary school tale.

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Long, Nye & Conewago Elementary Schools

 

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Brown, Gavin. Josh Baxter Levels Up. New York: Scholastic Press, 2016. 978-0-545-77294-5. 172p. $12.99. Gr. 3-7.

For the third time in two years Josh is new at school. Understandably, Josh is tired of being the new kid and having to make new friends. His mother is working extra long hours since the loss for Josh’s father. At this point Josh would rather play his video games than meet people. Poor midterm grades lead his mother to lock away all of his video games and equipment. Maya becomes his writing tutor at school, and eventually he contemplates asking her to the school dance. Having a fight with the star football player, Mittens, causes Josh the most time in punishment but takes Mittens out of the big game. During difficult moments, Josh thinks how his favorite video game characters would react to the situation. Peter, the student who sticks up for Josh in his fight with Mittens, invites Josh to play Smash Bros. with him, Taniko, and Chen. Josh joins the video competition team and leads with the newly added sports games that he loved playing with his later father. Will they be able to defeat Mittens and his team? THOUGHTS: Tie into English with types of narrative and conflict. After each chapter there is a chart of Josh’s health, lives, and new skills unlocked. At different times in the novel readers can see the heart symbol to see the level of health for Josh.  The book has real heart as Josh struggles with the loss of his father and his belief that his seemingly perfect older sister did not struggle with the loss of their father. Ideal for all gamers, sport stars and everything in between type of readers.

Realistic Fiction    Beth McGuire, Wendover Middle School

The Sound of Letting Go

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Kehoe, Stasia Ward. The Sound of Letting Go. New York: Viking, 2014. 338 p. $16.99. Gr. 8+.

Daisy is a dutiful daughter, a trumpet prodigy, and responsible sister. All around good girl, Daisy does what she is asked, even when she would rather be elsewhere.  When she finds out her parents arguments are centered around whether or not to send her younger autistic brother, Steven, into a group home with caregivers who can manage his violent outbursts, Daisy gives up being a good girl and begins to descend into bad girl behavior missing jazz band practices, skipping school, drinking, and making out with boys. Her parents, who are preoccupied, rarely seem to notice Daisy’s misbehavior. To make Daisy’s life worse, she  secretly lusts after her childhood friend, Dave.  When Cal O’Callum, an Irish exchange student, shows up at jazz band practice, Daisy finds herself intrigued.  Told in verse, The Sound of Letting Go is an example of the voice of those children who are truly dealing with a sibling with disabilities and the abandonment that their siblings often feel.

Realistic Fiction, Verse    Brooke Gerlach, Manheim Central Middle School

Daisy is a character who resonates with students today.  She has spent her life learning the rules surrounding her brother’s specific idiosyncrasies becoming another parent to her brother. This novel brings Daisy’s guilt over wanting to be acknowledged as a part of her own family to the surface. Students who have always strived to meet their parents’ expectations will hear their own voice in this novel. Because of its verse, this novel is easy read and infused with romance. Educators and anyone working with children will have a new perspective on siblings of kids with autism after reading this novel. Excellent example of a narrative told in verse.