MG – The Shape of Thunder

Warga, Jasmine. The Shape of Thunder. Balzar & Bray, 2021. 978-0-062-95667-5. $16.99. 275 p. Grades 5-8.

Cora Hamid and Quinn Macauley are next door neighbors and inseparable friends all their twelve years of life–until they are not. Quinn’s older brother, Parker, takes his father’s hunting guns to his high school one November morning and shoots Cora’s sister, Mabel, a teacher, another student, and himself. The two families’ approach to grief could not be more different. Abandoned as a baby by her mother (the reader never discovers why), Lebanese-American and Muslim Cora has the nurturing support of her biologist dad; thoughtful, maternal Gram; and the professional support of a trained therapist. Quinn’s family buries the issue. Told in alternating voices, the reticent and less academic Quinn has difficulty expressing her thoughts and guilty feelings. Her workaholic father is against any outside help to ease the family’s suffering, and her mother hides in the house cooking and baking. Longing to reconnect with Cora, Quinn delivers a box to her doorstep stuffed with articles about time travel and wormholes on Cora’s birthday. She knows Cora well enough to appeal to her scientific nature. Perhaps the two of them could find a wormhole and travel back in time to stop the tragedy of that fateful day. As the pair work through the logistics of approaching a huge tree in the forest for the site of their wormhole/time traveling, they each experience the pain of regret and the insistence on holding fast to the memory of a loved one. While Cora has made new friends on her Junior Quizbowl Team and excels in her studies, Quinn has felt shunned. She longs to be on the soccer team, but is too ashamed to try out. Her art gives her some pleasure, yet not even drawing can remove the heavy weight of a secret she knows about her brother, the possibility that she could have prevented the circumstances. After she confides in the school librarian her remorse, she resolves to confess this awful secret to Cora. Though the revelation breaks their renewed bond, Cora devotes more time to her plan to make the impossible possible. When she questions her father about time travel, she is encouraged and inspired by his answer. He tells her that her absent mother had a theory comparing the shape of time to the shape of thunder: “impossible to map” (p. 213). When both Cora and Quinn are coaxed by different people to attend the traditional Fall Festival at their middle school, the rumble of thunder pulls the two estranged girls to the woods to prove Cora’s theory. The hopeful resolution of the story, despite the sadness surrounding it, gives the reader relief. Quinn’s and Cora’s relationship see-saws throughout realistically. After all, Quinn reminds Cora of the unspeakable thing Parker did. Quinn’s strained home life with her parents who refuse any kind of self-reflection or examination of the devastating action of their son is painful.  Minor situations like the jealousy of Mia, another friend of Cora’s, toward Quinn; the snide remarks of Quinn’s former teammate and friend; the growing crush Cora has with her classmate, Owen (a Japanese-American character), will resonate genuinely with middle school readers. The Shape of Thunder is a tough read, but one that confirms that happiness can co-exist with grief, and friendships can be mended.

THOUGHTS: This novel is full of emotion and rich in language and characterization, but not so intense that a sensitive middle grade student would be put off. Cora is a thinker and an intellectual. Throughout the novel, students will find themselves entertained by the interesting facts Cora spouts (“…cows kill more people than sharks each year…”). The images Warga uses to describe different feelings are unique but spot on (the “fizziness” Cora feels in her tummy when talking to her crush, Owen, etc.). She also makes dialogue very interesting. Quinn has a hard time speaking; her brain freezes and she can’t say the words. When she finally gets angry enough to spill over her feelings to her buttoned up family, it is heartbreaking. The conversations between Cora and her father and grandmother also are authentic and tell the reader so much about the characters. What the reader must conjecture about are Parker’s reason for the shooting and the absence of Cora’s mother since her father seems to have no obvious vices. Ms. Euclid, the school librarian and art teacher, is a heroine for Quinn. This book should be issued with a box of tissues.

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Series Nonfiction for Jr. High and HS

atomictheory

The Importance of Scientific Theory. San Diego: Reference Point Press, 2016. $38.60 ea. $231.60 set of 6. 80p. Gr. 7 and up.

Allen, John. The Importance of Atomic Theory. 978-1-60152-786-8.

Allen, John. The Importance of Cell Theory. 978-1-60152-888-9.

Allman, Toney. The Importance of Germ Theory. 978-1-60152-890-2.

Allman, Toney. The Importance of the Laws of Motion. 978-1-60152-892-6.

Currie, Stephen. The Importance of Evolution Theory. 978-1-60152-896-4.

Parks, Peggy J. The Importance of Plate Tectonic Theory. 978-1-60152-894-0.

The Importance of Scientific Theory series from Reference Point Press looks at specific scientific discoveries and the development of scientific thought throughout history and in modern day.  In The Importance of Atomic Theory, John Allen looks at what the atomic theory is, how it was developed, the impact of nuclear energy, modern medicine and medical technology, and the impact of atomic theory in chemistry and consumer electronics.  Each book in the series includes a foreward, a timeline of important dates in the history of the topic, source notes, a section about the pioneers and important scientists in the field, a section for further research, and an index.  Titles also include photographs and diagrams along with “pop out boxes” with information about particular incidents, tragedies, events, and people within the specific scientific theory area of study and red “words in context” boxes that explain terms.  THOUGHTS:  This is an excellent addition to high school science collections.  This series will allow further exploration of topics that may only be briefly covered in the curriculum (Can you say…science research!).

Scientific Theory       Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

ACMilan

Whiting, Jim. Soccer Champions. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2016. $12.00 ea. 48p. Gr. 7 and up.

AC Milan. 978-1-60818-590-0.

Bayern Munich. 978-1-60818-587-0.

FC Barcelona. 978-1-60818-586-3.

Liverpool FC. 978-1-60818-588-7.

Manchester United. 978-1-60818-589-4.

Real Madrid. 978-4-60818-591-7.

Soccer Champions, a new series from Creative Education, takes a look at the history, players, and current state of some of the most famous football clubs in the world.  Each text includes colorful and black and white photos of matches, players, and the club as a whole and is broken into chapters that explain how the club developed into one of the most famous football clubs in the world.  Each text also includes “Memorable Matches”, a timeline explaining some of the best match ups in club history; “Famous Footballers”, highlighting the clubs’ best and most well-known players; “Titles”, those held by the club; a selected bibliography; websites for more information, and an index.  THOUGHTS:  This is a must-have series for junior high and high schools with a love of soccer.  Students will enjoy reading up on the football clubs and teams, especially with the Summer Olympics coming soon.

Soccer       Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City

FBIcover

Agents of Government. Mankato, MN: Creative Education, 2016. $26.95 ea. $161.70 set of 6. 48p. Gr. 7 and up.

Bodden, Valerie. Federal Reserve System. 978-1-60818-546-7.

Bodden, Valerie. National Transportation Safety Board. 978-1-60818-548-1.

Wimmer, Teresa. Environmental Protection Agency. 978-1-60818-544-3.

Wimmer, Teresa. Federal Bureau of Investigation. 978-1-60818-545-0.

Wimmer, Teresa. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 978-1-60818-547-4.

Wimmer, Teresa. Peace Corps. 978-1-60818-549-8.

Agents of Government, a new series from Creative Education, looks at six different departments within the United States government.  Each text is divided into chapters with focuses on aspects of the particular agency.  For example, in the Federal Bureau of Investigation, chapter titles include: “Introduction”, a brief overview of the FBI; “Law and Disorder”, a chapter focused on the creation of the FBI and the development of the agency; “Gangs and Controversies”, focuses on the mafia, counterintelligence, white collar crime, espionage, and counterterrorism; “Stabilizing Structure”, a chapter about the structure of the FBI and current state of the department, and finally, “Securing the Unknown”, a chapter about the changes in the FBI after the attacks on September 11, 2001, and how the focus of the agency has changed.  Within each chapter of each book, sections “Agency Insiders” and “Around the World” are included.  In the FBI text, these sections include topics such as Emma Goldman, the Rosenbergs, Public Enemy No. 1, and the KGB.  In addition to the interesting chapters and sections, each text also includes a glossary and index along with color and black and white photos that support the topics presented and the agency as a whole.  THOUGHTS: This is a must-have nonfiction series for all junior high and high schools.  Even if the topics do not correspond directly with curricular areas (most should with government and/or history courses), the information about the agencies is very interesting and could be used during career research or for personal entertainment/exploration.

Social Sciences (300s); Government       Erin Parkinson, Lincoln JSHS, Ellwood City