Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Review: Long Way Down

**The following is based on an ARC received from @kidlitexchange in exchange for an honest review**
Long Way Down Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Will’s worst nightmare unfolds as he watches his brother Shawn get shot on the street, right in front of him. Shawn bleeds out in the arms of his girlfriend, and all Will can think about is the three rules:

Crying--don’t, no matter what.
Snitching--don’t, no matter what.
Revenge--if someone kills someone you love, find them and kill them back.
As he watches his mother mourn Shawn’s death, Will makes a plan to follow the rules. He finds Shawn’s gun, and gets on the elevator to track down the person he is SURE killed his brother. At least, he’s mostly sure.

On that elevator ride down to the ground floor, with a gun in his waistband, Will meets a series of surprising people who make him question everything he knows about the rules.

My Thoughts
Jason Reynolds writes about race relations and the struggles faced by people of color. Long Way Down follows the same pattern, but focuses specifically on gang violence and drug dealing that often occurs in urban settings.

The structure of the book is verse novel, which has a profound impact on the story-telling. Each “chapter” follows a floor on the elevator, and Reynolds is masterful at sharing lots of information in tiny snippets. For example, one verse describes Will standing in the elevator preparing to make his way down to the ground floor to take revenge on his brother’s killer.
“I put my hand behind my back

Felt the imprint
Of the piece, like
Another piece
Of me

An extra vertebra,
Some more backbone.

The description of the gun as both a physical and metaphorical backbone is powerful.

Time is another powerful element used by Reynolds. He uses it to bring a sense of urgency to the story. The story unfolds floor by floor, and although Will experiences the conversations in extended time, each stop only takes a few seconds. The reader gets to see the dichotomy between Will’s experience of a lengthy interaction with characters and the reality of the short trip in the elevator from the 8th to the 1st floor.

The theme of revenge is interwoven throughout the story. Each character that Will meets in the elevator has been impacted by the rule of revenge. For example, Will’s father was killed for avenging the death of his brother Mark. Each revenge killing set of a terrible chain of events. Reynolds emphasizes the emptiness of revenge as a motive.

Long Way Down is a quick but extremely powerful read. It was much more emotional and relatable for me than Reynolds’ book All American Boys. This is a great addition to a diversity collection and will appeal to students who are fans of Reynolds’ other books, as well as The Hate U Give and Monster.

My Recommendation
Gradues 8+ (language, violence)
4.5/5 stars

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Review: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Arnold Spirit, better known as Junior, knows what it means to struggle. Born with hydrocephalus (water on the brain), he was prone to seizures in childhood. He was bullied and targeted for his looks and disabilities. His home life wasn’t much better, living in abject poverty with an alcoholic father and an overworked mother.

Junior realized that remaining on the Spokane Indian reservation would result in more of the same...hunger, poverty, a dead-end job, and little or no education. So he makes a difficult decision that forces him to leave his lifelong best friend and all he knows behind. He transfers to the local white school over 20 miles away.

With no car, limited assistance from his family, and no money, Junior has to figure out how to not only get himself back adn forth to school, but also to practice for the basketball team for which he was unexpectedly chosen.

Junior faces great challenges in his life. He teaches us to respond to challenges with bravery, humor, and grit.

This book is a strange and wonderful mixture of narrative and verse poetry, along with cartoon illustrations. It deals with issues of racism, discrimination, bullying, and poverty with humor and finesse. Alexie doesn’t tiptoe around the issues, he deals with them head on. He also addresses common teen experiences such as masturbation, drug use, and alcohol.



View all my reviews

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Review: Quicksand Pond

Quicksand Pond Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Jessie's dad decides he and his kids need a vacation and packs up the family for a 6-week stay at the beach. No Internet, no iPods or phones, nothing but peace and quiet. And Jessie is BORED. Until she meets feisty and adventurous Terri Carr, and the two of them find a raft for exploring nearby Quicksand Pond, where people have gone missing and a mysterious murder occurred in the past.

My Thoughts
I enjoyed this book a lot, but I felt like it couldn't figure out what it wanted to be. It was a little realistic fiction, a little historical fiction, some mystery. I wanted each piece of the story to be fleshed out more. I wanted more of the older woman's story who watched the girls from the window. I wanted to know more about Terri and her life. And what was happening in Jessie's family with her parents? The story tried to cover too much territory in too short of a book.

My Recommendation
3.5/5 stars
Grades 5+


View all my reviews

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Review: The Forgetting Spell

The Forgetting Spell The Forgetting Spell by Lauren Myracle
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Talk:

Do you remember your 13th birthday? Closing your eyes, making your wish, and blowing out your candles? What would happen if your wish actually came true? In The Forgetting Spell, this is exactly what happens to Darya on her Wishing Day. But Darya should be careful what she wishes for, because it just might change everything about her life.

My Thoughts:
This book was all over the place. In hindsight, I should probably have read #1 before reading this one, but I jumped right in. I was confused and really had no idea what was going on or why. I still don't really know who Emily is, or why she mattered so much to the story. I don't get the mother character at all, or why she felt the need to leave her children and husband. Why would leaving fix anything? I am just so very confused by this story.

I feel like this book wanted to be so much more, and could have been, if there was any sort of logical story line. I just truly did not get it.

My Recommendations:
2.5/5 stars
Grades 5+


View all my reviews

Review: Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians

Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians Thinking Outside the Book: Essays for Innovative Librarians by Carol Smallwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a collection of essays from librarians in all types of positions: academic, public, school, medical, etc. It's an interesting idea, but it loses itself a bit in translation. I found that many of the essays were outdated (especially in terms of "required technology" and broken links). Still, I focused on the topics that are of particular interest to me: publishing, blogging, and embedded librarianship. I just skimmed or skipped those that didn't relate to me.

A good option if you can get it via ILL or borrow from a friend.

View all my reviews

Review: Children of Willesden Lane, The

Children of Willesden Lane, The Children of Willesden Lane, The by Mona Golabeck and Lee Cohen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Talk:
Have you ever been a long train ride? Looked out the window and seen the world flashing by? Now imagine that train was taking you away from everything you've ever known, including your family. Imagine it was taking you to an entirely new country where you don't know anyone, and you don't even really speak the language.

This is the true story of Lisa Jura, a 14-year old Jewish girl who was whisked away on the Kindertransport, in an effort to rescue her and thousands of other children from the horrors of the Nazi invasion of Austria. It is the story of her tireless efforts to get her sisters out of Austria, and to live out her mother's dream of becoming a concert pianist.

My Thoughts:
I read this in conjunction with The Survivor's Club, which probably wasn't fair. I so much loved Survivor's Club that this one sort of paled in comparison. It's not that it wasn't good...it just didn't have the power behind that the other book did. Both describe children going through unbelievably tough situations, and both extol the virtues of bravery and grit. I just didn't feel this one as much, probably because much of the emphasis was on the music and how it played a role in Lisa's life. I would have rathered learn more about the relationships and hardships than the music, but that's just a personal preference.

My Recommendation:
3.5/5 stars
Grades 5+ (might be a little dark for younger students, but no language or adult themes)

View all my reviews

Review: City of Bones

City of Bones City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book Talk
Clary and Simon are just regular teens, hanging out and doing life. One night they head to Pandemonium, Clary's favorite under-21 club. Clary witnesses an unusual interaction between several kids that changes not only her life, but the lives of everyone she loves. Suddenly, Clary realizes that there is so much more to the world she has always known. And her role in the world is much bigger than she ever expected.

My Thoughts
I think I would classify this as magical realism? Some romance, fantasy, etc. It's a good yarn, kind of a mix between Harry Potter and Hunger Games. Lots of magical creatures to keep your interest, bad guys, angels, vampires, etc.

My Remonnedation
3.5/5 stars
Grades 7+ (language, some adult themes, violence)

View all my reviews