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Monday, June 29, 2020

Seven Clues to Home by Gae Polisner and Norah Raleigh Baskin

As I am sure you may know, I am a big fan of the young adult novels by Gae Polisner.  Her writing is phenomenal.  Seven Clues to Home teams up Gae with award winning author Nora Raleigh Baskin to bring us this incredible middle grade novel.  Seven Clues is a beautiful story about love and grief and the importance of home.  Polisner and Baskin have given us a novel that dives in to the grief our young protagonist feels and the path to healing she travels along.  With the words and clues left behind after the untimely death of her best friend, Joy is able to start living again.  She is able to find strength through her journey, a journey that will take her right back to the place that means the most.  Home.  Seven Clues to Home is an incredible story, told by two wonderful authors, that will stick with you longer after you are finished. 

From Amazon:

An endearing story of love and grief as one girl follows the clues in a scavenger hunt left behind by her best friend, perfect for fans of Bridge to Terabithia and Nine, Ten.


Joy Fonseca is dreading her 13th birthday, dreading being reminded again about her best friend Lukas's senseless death on this day, one year ago -- and dreading the fact he may have heard what she accidentally blurted to him the night before. Or maybe she's more worried he didn't hear.

Either way, she's decided: she's going to finally open the first clue to their annual birthday scavenger hunt Lukas left for her the morning he died, hoping the rest of the clues are still out there. If they are, they might lead Joy to whatever last words Lukas wrote, and toward understanding how to grab onto the future that is meant to be hers.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside With Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, And The University Of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team by Chris Lear

Running with the Buffaloes: A Season with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and The University of Colorado Men's Cross Country Team by Chris Lear is my latest read.  This one is quite different from what I usually read, but one I enjoyed immensely.  While not a runner myself, my son is.  Because of his love of running, I love to know all about it.  And this story of the 1998 cross country season for the University of Colorado men's team is one for the ages.  While this book is obviously about the running, it is about so much more.  This novel tells of teamwork, leadership, toughness, courage, grief, and persistence.  We learn about work ethic in the training of Adam Goucher and his teammates.  We learn about trust as each of the runners follow the plan of Coach Mark Wetmore.  And we see what can be accomplished after unspeakable tragedy by having faith in those who surround you.  Whether you are a fan of running or not, Running with the Buffaloes is a story that will have you cheering for this group of runners from starting line to finish line.  

From Amazon:

Top five Best Books About Running, Runner's World Magazine
Top three Best Books About Running, readers of Runner's World Magazine (December 2009)
In RUNNING WITH THE BUFFALOES, writer Chris Lear follows the University of Colorado cross-country team through an unforgettable NCAA season. Allowed unparalleled access to team practices, private moments, and the mind of Mark Wetmore--one of the country's most renowned and controversial coaches--Lear provides a riveting look inside the triumphs and heartaches of a perennial national contender and the men who will stop at nothing to achieve excellence. The Buffaloes' 1998 season held great promise, with Olympic hopeful Adam Goucher poised for his first-ever NCAA cross-country title, and the University of Colorado shooting for its first-ever national team title. But in the rigorous world of top-level collegiate sports, blind misfortune can sabotage the dreams of individuals and teams alike. In a season plagued by injury and the tragic loss of a teammate, the Buffaloes were tested as never before. What these men managed to achieve in the face of such adversity is the stuff of legend and glory.
With passion and suspense, Lear captures the lives of these young men and offers a glimpse of what drives a gifted runner like Adam Goucher and a great coach like Mark Wetmore. Like Lance Armstrong's It's Not About the Bike, RUNNING WITH THE BUFFALOES is at once a glowing celebration of a sport and an inspiration to anyone who has ever had the courage to beat the odds and follow a dream.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe

My latest read is The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe, this year's winner of the William C. Morris Award for the best YA debut.  And that award was very deserved.  This novel was fun and funny, but also thought-provoking.  It is a look in to the life of teenagers, but also an outsider's story of trying to fit in to that typical life.  It is about finding your way in the world and figuring out how to make it all work.  And in the end, it's a story not about the messes we make, but what we do to clean them up.  I highly recommend!

The Field Guide to the North American Teenager is the story of Norris Kaplan, a Black French Canadian who suddenly finds his life uprooted as he moves to Austin, Texas.  The temperature is too hot, the cheerleaders are too full of themselves, and the sports are too "not hockey."  He is miserable in his new life, but as he leans in and gives Austin a chance, he finds it may not be too bad.  He has a job, has made a few friends, met a girl (or two), and even helped start a hockey team.  Everything seems to be looking up for Norris. That is until one night when he messes everything up.  His world falls apart and now me must figure out how to put all the pieces back together again.  

From Amazon:

William C. Morris YA Debut Award Winner!

A hilarious YA contemporary realistic novel about a witty Black French Canadian teen who moves to Austin, Texas, and experiences the joys, clich├ęs, and awkward humiliations of the American high school experience—including falling in love. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon, When Dimple Met Rishi, and John Green. This young adult novel is an excellent choice for accelerated tween readers in grades 7 to 8, especially during homeschooling. It’s a fun way to keep your child entertained and engaged while not in the classroom.

Norris Kaplan is clever, cynical, and quite possibly too smart for his own good. A Black French Canadian, he knows from watching American sitcoms that those three things don’t bode well when you are moving to Austin, Texas.

Plunked into a new high school and sweating a ridiculous amount from the oppressive Texas heat, Norris finds himself cataloging everyone he meets: the Cheerleaders, the Jocks, the Loners, and even the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Making a ton of friends has never been a priority for him, and this way he can at least amuse himself until it’s time to go back to Canada, where he belongs.

Yet against all odds, those labels soon become actual people to Norris…like loner Liam, who makes it his mission to befriend Norris, or Madison the beta cheerleader, who is so nice that it has to be a trap. Not to mention Aarti the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, who might, in fact, be a real love interest in the making.

But the night of the prom, Norris screws everything up royally. As he tries to pick up the pieces, he realizes it might be time to stop hiding behind his snarky opinions and start living his life—along with the people who have found their way into his heart.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby

Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All is a National Book Award Finalist and very deservedly so.  Laura Ruby has given readers another beautiful story and one that will stick with them long after turning the final page.  The storytelling in Thirteen Doorways is incredible and Ruby will draw you in immediately.  This haunting story is all about survival, persistence, forgiveness, and hope.  It is a story about finding your future while reconciling your past.  This is a novel about self-understanding and knowing that the life you have built for yourself will always be enough.  I can't recommend this one enough.  It is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year so far!

From Amazon:

National Book Award 2019 Finalist!

From the author of Printz Medal winner Bone Gap comes the unforgettable story of two young women—one living, one dead—dealing with loss, desire, and the fragility of the American dream during WWII.

When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie's not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.

Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.

And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she's able to carve out will be enough.

I will admit I do not know the answer. But I will be watching, waiting to find out.

That’s what ghosts do.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet

A Children's Bible by Lydia Millet came highly recommended by one of my favorite authors, Andrew Smith.  And what I have learned is if Andrew tells you that you should read something, you probably should.  This novel is no exception.  This is not a YA novel, but that should not stop young people from reading it.  A Children's Bible is a funny and thought provoking look at the difference between adulthood and adolescence and what that difference may mean for the future.  And maybe most importantly, it can be an eye opener about the legacy we are leaving for our children by the actions we are taking in the present day.

A Children's Bible is the story of a group of kids (mostly teens, but a couple younger) who are brought together by their parents.  Their parents have all rented a vacation house together, intent on a full summer of drugs, booze, sex, and general debauchery.  The kids are left to fend for themselves, but knowing their parents, this is how they want it.  When a powerful storm sweeps through the area, maybe signaling the end times, this group of young people is forced to venture in to this apocalyptic world on their own.  As chaos continues to unfold, the kids and parents must come together to confront the vices that have divided them.  This eventual cooperation may not be enough to overcome what the adults have already established.   And maybe, just maybe, the future is placed in to the hands of those who are best equipped to handle it.   

From Amazon:

Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2020 by Apple Books, Literary Hub, The Millions, and The Week

An indelible novel of teenage alienation and adult complacency in an unraveling world.

Pulitzer Prize finalist Lydia Millet’s sublime new novel―her first since the National Book Award long-listed Sweet Lamb of Heaven―follows a group of twelve eerily mature children on a forced vacation with their families at a sprawling lakeside mansion.

Contemptuous of their parents, who pass their days in a stupor of liquor, drugs, and sex, the children feel neglected and suffocated at the same time. When a destructive storm descends on the summer estate, the group’s ringleaders―including Eve, who narrates the story―decide to run away, leading the younger ones on a dangerous foray into the apocalyptic chaos outside.

As the scenes of devastation begin to mimic events in the dog-eared picture Bible carried around by her beloved little brother, Eve devotes herself to keeping him safe from harm.

A Children’s Bible is a prophetic, heartbreaking story of generational divide―and a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.