Elem./MG – Out of My Heart

Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Heart. Atheneum Book for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-665-90216-8. 352 p. $18.99. Grades 5 and up. 

Melody Brooks has cerebral palsy, but that has never stopped her in the past, and it won’t stop her now from achieving her plan of attending camp this summer. After researching camps for kids like her, she convinces her parents to complete the application for Camp Green Glades. At first, Melody’s dream is dashed when she learns the camp does not have any openings this summer, but then, after a cancellation, Melody’s dream comes true. At Camp Green Glades, Melody experiences swimming, ziplining, hiking, horseback riding, and even dancing; all things she never dreamed she could do. Throughout all of her adventures, she finds true friendship and a personal determination and will to do anything.

THOUGHTS: This is a MUST read for all ages. Sharon Draper once again brings to life the voice of those often left silent. This highly anticipated follow up to Out of My Mind (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2010) shows readers the potential in not only people with specific needs, but all of us. Melody goes on adventures that I’ve never tried, but definitely want to after reading how Melody felt. Out of My Heart gives hope to all and is another prize for middle-grade (and all) readers. Draper’s ability to bring Melody’s voice to life is amazing; Melody is eloquent and strong and still a soon-to-be-teenager going through all of those “tween” things. Another superb novel from Sharon Draper. 

Realistic Fiction          Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

Sidenote – I have a nephew with CP. Both of Melody’s stories give me so much hope for him and what he can become. My heart is filled with hope because of Melody. 

Sidenote 2 – I do not recommend the audio of this book. I love audiobooks, but this reader used a very high-pitched voice for Melody that I found to be too childish. It wasn’t Melody’s voice. I switched to just reading the print about a quarter of the way through the book. 

MG – Long Distance

Gardner, Whitney. Long Distance. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2021. 978-1-534-45566-5. 315 p. $21.99. Grades 5-8.

Author and illustrator Whitney Gardner’s latest, Long Distance, is a charming middle grade graphic novel with something for almost every reader to love. When 10-year old Vega’s family relocates from Portland to Seattle, she has to leave her best (and only) friend Halley behind. To help her make new friends, Vega’s dads send her to a remote camp in the Washington woods called Very Best Friend. Vega is skeptical; she has Halley, after all, although her bestie hasn’t returned her last few texts. And the camp itself is unusual, with nonstop overcast skies, zero cell reception, and awkward counselors. Vega and her fellow campers discover surveillance gear hidden inside a pinecone, fake rocks scattered in the forest, and other clues that something is amiss. Vega, twins Gemma and Isaac, and chatty Qwerty join forces to gather more information in some of the book’s most entertaining sequences. Whitney Gardner’s illustrations are digitally rendered, with camp scenes depicting the natural world in earthy tones of green, rust, and slate blue. Bright, otherworldly colors cue the graphic novel’s big reveals.

THOUGHTS: This fish-out-of-water story blossoms into a science fiction-infused mystery, all while delivering some heartfelt lessons about how to make (and be) a real friend, no matter the distance.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – How Big is Your Brave?

Soukup, Ruth. How Big is Your Brave? ZonderKidz, 2020. $17.99. Unpaged. Grades PreK-2. 

Zippy the bunny dreams of traveling to space one day but feels uncertain about trying Space Camp. With some gentle encouragement from her family, Zippy heads to Space Camp even though she’s scared. Mom tells her, “Being brave doesn’t mean you’re never scared…courage means taking an action, even when you feel afraid.” Zippy flourishes at camp, making friends and learning a lot. When an accident derails her plans for Launch Day, Zippy feels ready to give up. Dad reminds her that “You can choose to give up or choose to keep going. It’s all up to you.” When Launch Day arrives, Zippy’s Veggie Vrrrooom wins second place and a special award for most creative design. While the title phrase never features in the story, the message is one that all kids will understand in some way, whether it’s facing scary situations with courage or working through challenges.

THOUGHTS: Zippy’s friendly face and relatable story will win over readers.

Picture book                    Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD