Monday, November 20, 2017

Tiny Infinities (review)

Tiny Infinities
Author: J.H. Diehl
Publisher: Chronicle Books (To be released May 8, 2018)
Borrowed ARC.

All 12-year-old Alice wants to do is focus on getting her name up on her swim team's record board, but life is way beyond her control. After a bad car accident, her mother is sullen and will barely leave her room. Her dad has moved out, and her brothers have gone to live with her aunt.

Furious and confused by the scattering of her family, Alice decides to move out to a tent in the backyard, and not move back inside until her parents come to their senses and her dad moves back home. Thus begins a long summer where Alice struggles to meet her cherished swimming goal, find a way to get her family back together, and maybe even help the little girl next door who watches Alice but never says a word.

TINY INFINITIES is a lovely, complex story which will tug at your heart and make you smile as well. Alice and Harriet, her new and confusing friend, are such real early teens, with all the complexities of figuring out both what is right and wrong, and what is right and wrong for YOU. One thing I especially love is how every other character, from Alice's mom and dad to little Piper next door, are drawn with both warm and depth, none falling into simple stereotypes or roles.

This is a phenomenal book, and I strongly recommend it for 11-14 year olds, and anybody else who remembers that age when life was complicated, out of your control, and yet full of promise. STEM friendly.

Five stars!

To be released in May 2018, but available for pre-order now.

On Amazon

STEM friendly

I've added a new category in the reviews, marking the ones that are STEM friendly, meaning they have good, positive messages and themes relating to science and math, especially for girls but also for boys. It may take a while for me to go back and identify earlier books, but going forward I will make sure to add that label when appropriate.

Monday, November 6, 2017

The 11:11 Wish (review)

The 11:11 Wish
Author: Kim Tomsic
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (February 13, 2018)
Borrowed ARC.

Megan is starting 7th grade at a new school, and she's determined to leave her awkward, nerdy past behind, but middle school has a way of upending plans. Caught between two rivals before she even makes it to her first class, Megan has to use her wits to try and rescue her social status, but her wits aren't helping much. Just when social disaster seems certain, Megan happens to wish on a magic clock at 11:11 exactly, and mysterious, wonderful things start happening.

If only magic didn't come with such a high cost.

An absolutely charming romp through the intricacies of middle school politics, crushes and the desire to fit in, mixed with magic and math and mayhem. Against the poignant backdrop of a first year without mom, and a sister and dad who are struggling to cope as well, this story does a great job of wrapping everything up in a satisfying package.

I strongly recommend for tweens and teens. It's possible that the fashion-related elements will discourage some boys from reading, but that's their loss if it does. The embrace of STEM is very welcome.

Five stars!

Won't be released until February, but go ahead and pre-order it for your favorite teen today.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth (review)

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth
Author: Debbi Michiko Florence
Illustrator: Elizabet Vukovic
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) (July 11, 2017)
Borrowed from library.

It's a big weekend for eight-year-old detective Jasmine Toguchi!

She's excited to celebrate Girl's Day-a Japanese holiday celebrating women and girls-with her sister, her mother, and her best friend, Linnie. On Friday, Jasmine's neighbor Mrs. Reese lets the best friends search through her old clothes for the perfect accessories for their Girl's Day outfits. But the clothes are in her garage, which is dark and scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine's big sister, Sophie, doesn't seem to want to join in the Girl's Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on?

In this entertaining new chapter book series, Jasmine Toguchi stars in adventures which revolve around school and her family and their Japanese traditions. Jasmine is dramatic and imperfect and fun. We get to follow along her adventures, which she describes in grand fashion but which sometimes fall flat. Kids will enjoy her stumbles along with her excitement.

I like that the Japanese traditions shown in the book are integrated well, and don't either take a front row seat or fade too far into the background. They are simply part of Jasmine's life, so we learn about them through her excitement. The illustrations are warm and fun and integrated into the text. 

It's always good to find a chapter book series to recommend.

Four stars!


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Braced (review)

Author: Alyson Gerber
Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books (March 28, 2017)

Rachel is excited about the start of 7th grade with its promise of soccer and friends and (just maybe) boys. But when the surgeon monitoring her scoliosis says the curvature in her spine is getting worse and that she must wear a back brace 23 HOURS A DAY, all her dreams seem doomed.

What follows is a year of difficulty and discovery, as Rachel learns to cope with the bulky clothes she has to wear, the difficulty in playing her beloved soccer, and the impact her brace has on her friends, teammates and her ever-so-cute crush, Tate.

What makes the story heartwarming is how Rachel starts to see the trials her friends and family are also going through, from her pregnant mom who used to wear a brace herself, to her friends coping with loss and love and confusion. There are times when this can be a little too convenient as far as lessons go, but what really works is how well the author captures the age and mindset of Rachel, and shows how she matures and gains perspective through her adversity.

Four out of stars


Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Upside of Unrequited (review)

The Upside of Unrequited
Author: Becky Albertalli
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (April 11, 2017)

17-year-old Molly is the queen of crushes, carefully tabulated and shared with her twin sister, Cassie, and good friends Abby and Olivia, but never, ever shared with the boys themselves. She is shy, but also afraid that the boys might see the overweight girl Molly sees in the mirror.

In this entertaining and often poignant story of taking chances and breaking out of her self-imposed boundaries, Molly must rediscover the girl in the mirror while at the same time dealing with her changing relationship with her sister. In a way, it reminds me of the theme (though not the story) of the Disney movie, Frozen, with sisters learning to define their own roles while exploring love outside, and inside, their safe but confining home.

With a wonderful cast of characters, from the sisters' helpful but unhelpful moms to the gorgeous Mina who sweeps away Cassie on her tangent to the smooth hipster Will and adorkable Reid who, in Molly's mind at least, vie for her first big step out from unrequited love to real live boyfriend, The Upside of Unrequited is fun and authentic and caring.

I strongly recommend for young adults, and anyone who remembers what it was like.

Five stars!


P.S. This also reminds me I should really get a copy of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Ms. Albertalli's first novel, which has been highly recommended.