MG – The Dream Weaver

Alegre, Reina Luz. The Dream Weaver. Simon & Schuster Publishers, 2020. $17.99. 978-1-534-46231-1. Grades 5-8.

After drifting around the country following her father’s next big idea her whole life, twelve-year-old Zoey Finolio and her college-bound brother, Jose, land at the Jersey shore living with their maternal Cuban grandfather—one of the most stable homes since their mother’s death. Though Zoey loves her father, she revels in a summer at the beach, doing things most kids her age do and embraces the dream of saving Gonzo’s, her grandfather’s rundown bowling alley, from a developer. When she gets a chance to fill in as a bowler on a local team headed for a championship, Zoey sees it as an opportunity to not only savor friendship but also rejuvenate the boardwalk business. The familial relationships and friendships are nurturing and supportive throughout the book, but this book doesn’t resort to past solutions. Even after the valiant efforts of Zoey and her new friends, Pappy decides to unload the bowling alley and just manage it; Jose still wants to pursue his dream of being an engineer at college; and Zoey’s father continues to try his luck at a different job despite sacrificing his children’s stability. Zoey shows strength of character in expressing her feelings to her father and finds solace in her supportive brother, her new friends, and her new home with her beloved Pappy.

THOUGHTS: The close familial relationships and kind friend relationships are a delight to read. Zoey’s father’s behavior is abysmal and may be a form of bibliotherapy for some readers. In Chapter One, Zoey gets her period for the first time and the narrative explains her distress and how she deals with it, so using the book as a read aloud—at least the first chapter—may be uncomfortable.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Picture Books – No Honking Allowed!; That’s My Book; The Thank You Dish; Robinson

Calmenson, Stephanie. No Honking Allowed! Holiday House, 2017. 978-0-8234-3672-9. $16.95. Unpaged. Gr. K-2.
Friends (and dinosaurs) Rex and Stego go on a driving adventure in Rex’s car in this rhyming tale from Stephanie Calmenson. Rex is very excited about his car and wants to demonstrate his favorite features: the engine (“vroom”), the brakes (“screech”), and his favorite feature on the vehicle: the horn (“honk!”). In fact, everywhere he goes in the city, Rex wants to honk the horn. But before he can stark honking, Stego points out to him the “No Honking. Except for Safety.” signs posted throughout the city. When a fire truck needs to get through the crowded street, Stego finally gives Rex permission to honk the horn, which Rex does with enthusiasm. But after the fire truck passes, Rex must try to regain control over his urge to honk. THOUGHTS: Sure to be popular with readers, this humorous, rhyming story would be a perfect read-aloud choice. Recommended for schools and classrooms serving younger readers.
Picture Book      Elizabeth Henry, Lampeter-Strasburg SD

 

Yoon, Salina. That’s My Book! And Other Stories. Bloomsbury, 2017. 978-1-611963-891-4. Upaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

Salina Yoon returns with three new stories in the newest installment of Duck, Duck, Porcupine!.  In “That’s My Book!”, Porcupine and Big Duck are bored.  They ask Little Duck to borrow his books, but instead of reading them, they play dominos, “walk fancy”, and make a stage out of books.  This bothers Little Duck, so he takes his books back.  When Porcupine and Big Duck find a left-behind book, they open it and learn that reading is fun.  Story two, “Let’s Have a Talent Show!”, showcases that everyone has talents even when they don’t know it.  Big Duck wants to have a talent show, but Porcupine doesn’t seem to have any talents.  He soon realizes, as do the others, that he too has talents they are just different from Big Duck’s talents.  In the final story, “Dress-Like-A-Pirate Day”, Porcupine gives Little Duck an eye patch for Dress-Like-A- Pirate Day, but Big Duck doesn’t know it’s that day, so he’s worried that something is wrong with Little Duck because he’s wearing an eye patch and will only say, “Arr!”  He misses all of the signs as he tries to figure out what’s wrong with Little Duck.  THOUGHTS:  All three stories are fun read alouds with elementary students.  Each story has a great theme/moral that can lead to great character and kindness discussions.  This is a great addition to elementary libraries and classrooms.

Picture Book       Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Balla, Trace. The Thank You Dish. Kane Miller, 2017. 978-1-61067-644-1. Unpaged. $9.99. Gr. K-2.

The Thank You Dish highlights all of the people and things necessary for one meal.  As Grace and her mama sit down to dinner, Mama starts by thanking rain, soil, and the sun for helping with the meal.  Grace then begins to add in all of the other animals, people, and things that helped create the meal on her plate.  Each page spread uses muted yellows, oranges, and greens and highlights the image of Grace’s thank you.  THOUGHTS:  Although not a must-have, this is a nice concept book about what it takes to create a meal and also how to show gratitude for what one has.  It would be good to read around Thanksgiving or with a kindergarten class learning about kindness.

Picture Book     Erin Bechdel, Beaver Area SD

 

Sís, Peter. Robinson. Scholastic Press, 2017. 978-0-545-73166-9. 32 pp. $17.99. Gr. Pre-K-2.

A little boy who loves to play pirates with his friends is excited for a Halloween contest at school. His mom suggests he be the character from his favorite book, Robinson Crusoe, and he creates an elaborate costume. The boy is excited, until he gets to school and his friends laugh at him for wearing something so unusual. Upset, the boy goes home to bed and dreams of sailing to an island and living like Crusoe. In the end his friends come over to apologize and learn more about the boy’s favorite book.  THOUGHTS: An adventurous read about acceptance and being ok with one’s self. The drawings are typical of Peter Sís, beautiful and soft.

Picture Book          Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

 

 

YA Realistic FIC – She, Myself, & I; Love, Hate, & Other Filters; American Street; Alex Approximately

Young, Emma. She, Myself, and I. Amulet Books, 2017. 978-1-4197-2570-8. 336 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Paralyzed and slowly dying from a degenerative disease, 18-year-old Rosa longs for a normal life.  Brain-dead after an accident while trying to help a friend, 18-year-old Sylvia’s family is left with no hope of her ever regaining consciousness.  Their young lives are about to intertwine in ways never thought scientifically possible.  A brain transplant will give Rosa a new body and Sylvia the legacy of a lifetime.  The physical recovery will be long and difficult for both Rosa and her family as well as Sylvia’s parents and friends.  As Rosa learns how to live in her new body, she becomes deeply preoccupied with the person whose tragedy that gave her the ability to walk again.  She needs to know who Sylvia was before the accident, whether a part of Sylvia still lives on in her, and if she will ever feel like “herself” again when she looks in a mirror and sees someone else’s face.  THOUGHTS:  A dying quadriplegic teenage girl is given the chance of a lifetime — to wake up in a new body with a new future.  How does she compromise who she used to be with who she is now?  What does she, and everyone around her, see when her face is no longer her own?  While the situation itself might seem unrealistic, medical technology is rapidly advancing and brain transplantation might not be far from the horizon.  Technology aside, the existentialism of Rosa’s situation and the ripple effect on Rosa’s and Sylvia’s families and friends are not often seen in YA literature and will resonate with teens as they embark on their own journey of discovery.

Realistic Fiction      Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Ahmed, Samira. Love, Hate & Other Filters. Soho Teen, 2018. 978-1-6169-5847-3. 288 p. $18.99. Gr. 8 and up.

Maya Aziz is torn between being the typical American high school senior and being the traditional Indian girl her parents wish for her to be. Maya’s parents emigrated to the U.S. with dreams; dreams that included for their daughter to have a future as a successful lawyer with a Muslim husband.  But Maya’s dreams are not her parents dreams.  She loves to make movies and has a crush on the star football player.  She is beyond excited yet also scared that she’s been accepted to NYU with a note saying they think her films “show promise”, and the star football player just might be interested in her, too.  As Maya frets over decisions that will shape her future, a terrorist attack at the state capital threatens to take it all away from her.  In the aftermath, Maya and her family must learn how to compromise their dreams with our nation’s reality.  THOUGHTS:  In sharing the story of 18-year-old Maya, born in America to parents that emigrated from India to a small Illinois town, Samira Ahmed has captured what it means to be anyone who is of Middle Eastern descent in the United States.  Ignorance and false information continues to feed racism in our country.  There are far too many Americans who conveniently forget that, unless they are American Indian, we ALL come from a long line of immigrants who were given a chance to build their own version of the American dream.  Ahmed also turns the spotlight on the issue of fear and anger stemming from the refusal to accept others as they are, particularly when the actions of one cast a suspicious net on others, and especially when religion is involved.  Oftentimes, people act out of ignorance and anger, not considering the lasting effects on all those around them.  The addition of an anonymous secondary narrator will make readers question their own preconceptions as the story weaves to its conclusion.  I would rank Love, Hate, & Other Filters right up there with Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give and should be on every high school reading list.

Realistic Fiction     Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Zoboi, Ibi. American Street. Balzer+Bray, 2017. 978-0062473042. 326 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

American Street is a powerful debut novel, and one that should find its way to every library that serves young adults. Told from the point of view of a recent Haitian immigrant to the United States, the story highlights and expands on many current issues in our world regarding immigration and poverty in urban areas. Fabiola Toussaint travels from Haiti with her mother to live with her mother’s sister and her daughters in Detroit, Michigan. Yet, when they arrive in the States, Fabiola’s mother is detained by immigration officials and Fabiola is forced to travel on to Detroit alone. When she arrives, she is quick to realize that American life might not be like what she imagined. Her three female cousins are loud and brazen, and her aunt never seems to work or leave the house, situated on American Street in inner-city Detroit. Fabiola is despondent over the loss of her mother and unsure of how to act in this new American life, maintaining her faith in her voodoo practices to seek understanding. A new relationship lightens the story, but Fabiola must soon decide what is more important to her: the chaotic family who brought her to the United States, or a mother whose love has sustained her. This book realistically and honestly describes the immigrant plight, from one poverty-stricken area to another.  THOUGHTS: Highly recommended for high school students as well as adults. This author is one to watch.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shady Side Academy

 

Bennett, Jenn. Alex Approximately. Simon Pulse, 2017. 978-1481478779. 400 p. $17.99. Gr. 9-12.

Bailey Rydell has decided to join her divorced father in California, the other side of the country from her mother and her stepfather, who cannot seem to stop fighting. Not only will Bailey be able to spend time with her father, but she will also be in the same town as “Alex”, a boy whom she has been talking with on an online movie-lovers chat room for a long time. Bailey thinks that she and Alex might be perfect together, but she decides not to tell him that she is moving until she can do some detective work and find a little bit more about Alex in the flesh. Bailey is obsessed with old movies and movie stars and is excited when her father gets her a job at a local museum. The first day on the job she butts heads with Porter Roth, the son of a local surf legend and security guard at the museum. Soon, they realize that they each have experienced troubles in their pasts and try to move forward together. Will Alex get in the way of their budding relationship? This sweet story starts out slow, and Bailey can be a bit annoying at times. But, as she grows as a character she evolves into a strong young woman in her own right. The adult characters are numerous and realistic, and add a nice counterpoint to the teen viewpoint. THOUGHTS: Teens will find this novel fun yet introspective, a new-age take on the classic Shop Around the Corner (Bailey would know what this movie is, but I rather doubt most teens would!).

Realistic Fiction     Lindsey Myers, Shady Side