RSS Feed

Staff Picks: Books

Hope Was Here

Joan Bauer writes a fast-paced realistic story about Hope Yancey, she is 16 years old and travels the country with her Aunt Addie who adopted her when she was just a baby. Hope has already attended six different schools and has lived in five different states. Why all the moving? Addie is a cook and all the diners where she’s worked go belly-up. Hope is an excellent waitress, a good waitress has to be ready for anything. Sweeping through the counter, getting orders. Adrenaline pumping. If you want a thrill there’s nothing like in-the-weeds waitressing. You never know what’s coming next. You could wait on a mainiac or a guy passing out twenties.
The story begins with Hope and Addie traveling to Mulvaney, Wisconsin, to begin their new jobs at the Welcome Stairways Restaurant. G. T. Stoops, the owner, has leukemia and he needs help, fast! Addie answers his ad for a cook and professional manager to run his diner.
Hope’s biological mother is Deena, her Aunt Addie’s sister, who didn’t want to be saddled with the responsibility of a baby. Hope’s never met her real father, but she keeps thinking he’ll show up someday, she even keeps scrapbooks of her adventures in anticipation of showing them to her dad… will she ever have a father?
G. T. Stoops is a great guy, so much so that he joins a mayoral race against the corrupt mayor. Hope is a busy teen. She and the staff of the Welcome Stairways get involved in the campaign. There is excitement when the diner fills with customers day by day eager for delicious meals.
The name of the Welcome Stairways diner name is explained on the menu: From early times, the Quakers had welcome stairways built in front of their homes in Massachusetts. These double stairways descended to the street from the front door and were symbols of Quaker faith and hospitality—constant reminders that all guests were to be welcomed from whichever way they came, and,My mother always said that the stairways symbolized how we must greet whatever changes and difficulties life may bring with firm faith in God... Welcome, friend, from whichever way you’ve come. May God richly bless your journey.
Hope Was Here is a refreshing story of loss and triumph.


The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place

 This is sort of a fun read for those who may be looking for a bit of a darker read but aren’t really ready for something scary.  The head mistress of a ladies’ finishing school and her brother are poisoned and rather than report the crime to the local police the seven students decide to hide it in an effort to avoid being sent home and separated from each other.  Disgraceful Mary Jane, Sly Kitty, and Stout Alice (each girl has a moniker) haphazardly cobble together a cover up while Pocked Louise sets her sights on finding the killer.  The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place is an interesting read for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries with female protagonists.

 


Lowriders in Space

Lowriders in Space is a really imaginative flight-of-fancy in a graphic novel format that children and adults will love. With awesome illustrations by Raúl the Third, the story by Cathy Camper features Lupe Impala, the finest mechanic south of Vacaville. She and her friends El Chavo Flapjack and Elirio Malaria (he's a male mosquito so he doesn't bite), have the skills to restore a junker to compete in a contest for the best car around. They need to win so they can use the prize money to open up their own shop. With original characters and illustrations from out of this world, this is the first book in a great new series!

 


Guardians of Ga'Hoole

Want to hook a young reader on a fantasy series? Try out the Guardians of Ga’Hoole by Kathryn Lasky. 15 books of classic good vs. evil in a land run by owls. Owlet snatching, moon blinking, chaw building, battle claws, trees, weather, flashbacks, ceremonies, maps, sorcery, polar bears, nest maid snakes….it’s all in this series! Fun fast paced chapters that always end on a cliff hanger. Each book leaves you rushing to get the next one. Readers will find many correlations to human social psychology and politics using real owl science. This has been a fun series to read aloud with my tween. The movie is a fun tie in too, check it out!


FatKid Rules the World, by K. L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going (Kelly)
c.2003

I really liked this story. It has substance, believability and great character development.

Troy Billings is a 300 lb. high school senior who lives in New York City with his retired ex-Marine father and Dayle, his freshman jock brother. Troy’s mom died when he was nine years old. The story begins with Troy standing treacherously close to the subway tracks, contemplating whether or not to jump when he is suddenly and purposely interrupted by Curt MacCrae. Curt attends the same high school as Troy and Curt is a guitarist extraordinaire. Curt is filthy, skinny, and he’s a junkie. Curt and Troy form a friendship; Curt nicknames Troy “Big T” and he likes that moniker. Curt recruits Troy to be a drummer in his punk rock band, he knows that Troy has what it takes to pound the drums for the sounds he craves.

Troy thinks of himself as a loser; he overeats and he has no friends. Curt really helps Troy move beyond himself. Curt is sweet, unpredictable, and caring, but he’s a victim of abuse and neglect. His father is gone and his mom is married to an abusive alcoholic. Curt pops any prescription pills he can steal to self-medicate.

Troy only played drums in junior high. Curt takes Troy to a music club where they practice playing their music. Troy meets two other musicians and takes a few lessons from the drummer. Troy goes to a punk rock concert with Curt and he has a blast. By now Curt has visited Troy’s house and met Dayle and his dad who is very direct with Curt. He is glad that Troy has a friend, he buys him a drum set. Troy buys drumming books. He practices. Then he doesn’t. When he finally does play on stage for the first time, he is humiliated. Troy is disgusted with himself and he ignores Curt’s phone calls. Soon, however, Troy discovers that Curt is deathly sick and he takes him to ER where Curt is diagnosed with pneumonia and he’s in the hospital for several days. While hospitalized Curt steals prescription drugs and hides them in a planter. Some critical decisions arise: Where will Curt stay upon release from the hospital? What about his addiction? Will Troy force an ultimatum on Curt?

Fat Kid Rules the World is a Printz Honor Award winner for literary excellence for young adult literature. K. L. Going acknowledges Curt Cobain in the writing of this book which has been made into a movie.


Words with Wings

Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes is a short story told in poetic verse. The story is about a girl named Gabriella and, although her grade and age aren’t revealed, she’s probably in junior high.  Each page is a poem with a one or two word title that captures a day in the life of Gabriella who was named after the Angel Gabriel.   Her parents are now separated, she has moved to a new school, and Gabriella uses day dreaming as a way to escape life… separation from her father and being the shy new kid in class.  She day dreams when she hears any particular word and her thoughts are carried away on wings.  For example, the word Dragon takes her riding on a dragon across the sky till the sun dives into the sea.  However, both her mother and her teacher, Mr. Spicer, tell her to quit day dreaming.   “Mom names me for a creature with wings, then wonders what makes my thoughts fly.”  When Gabriella finally does stop day dreaming her mom and Mr. Spicer know that she is unhappy.  Will Gabriella ever return to day dreaming?


I like this book because it is an effective poetry story.  It is interesting that Grimes uses two different fonts to categorize the moods of the poems.  Nikki Grimes is an award winning author and this book received a 2014 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award.  Kalamazoo Public Library owns many books by Nikki Grimes.


I Kill the Mockingbird

After the sudden death of their favorite teacher, three middle schoolers conspire to get everybody to read one of his favorite books, To Kill A Mockingbird, by misshelving and hiding copies of the classic first in their town and eventually in libraries and bookstores far and wide. Lucy, Elena, and Michael publicize what they're doing with posters and social media while making the book scarce until their plan takes on a life of its own. Like Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, I Kill the Mockingbird is a fast and witty read that celebrates the love of books and reading. 

Book

I Kill the Mockingbird
9781596437425

The Boy on the Wooden Box

Leon Leyson was number 289, the youngest on the list.  The list that would eventually mean life for more than a thousand Jews.  Leon was Number 289 on Schindler's list.  His powerful memoir, The Boy on the Wooden Box  tells his story to the young people of today what it was like surviving the Holocaust.  The reader sees this horrific time through the eyes of a child.  His youthful perspective brings a powerful message of survival and humanity.  Leon was only a boy during WWII, spending most of his years from 10-19 in Jewish ghettos, work, concentration and displaced persons camps.  The hunger, loss, pain and suffering are real.  Separated for months at a time from his family, Leon found the will to survive inside of him.  If you are a reader at 40 or a child at 10 reading this book, you will feel the struggle. You will hold your breath as the family is forced to separate.  You will wonder how evil can exist.  You will wonder if Leon ever sees the faces again of his brothers.  Share this book with your children or students. 

I think the dedication page is its own recommendation for reading this book:  "To my brothers, Tsalig and Hershel, and to all the sons and daughters, sisters and brothers, parents and grandparents who perished in the Holocaust.  And to Oskar Schindler, whose noble actions did indeed save a "world entire." - Leon Leyson

Book

The Boy on the Wooden Box
9781442497818

Prepare for fall movie releases with summer reading...

Film adaptations of three recent novels and one middle school classic are scheduled for release this fall. Why not take advantage of summer reading season to read, or perhaps re-read, the books that have inspired these upcoming movies:

The Giver by Lois Lowry - August 15 release

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - October 3 release

The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks - October 17 release

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - November 21 release

Book

Gone Girl
9780307588364

The Mad Potter

The arresting photo on the cover of this book caught my eye and I was quickly drawn into the quirky world of George Ohs, who called himself The Mad Potter.

Born in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1871, George Ohs was a largely self-taught potter, making items like no one had ever seen before. It wasn’t until long after his death that the art world came to appreciate what he called his “mud babies.”

The Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius tells his fascinating story and is illustrated with intriguing historic photographs.

Book

The Mad Potter
9781596438101