Maddie and her friends are excited to audition for the eighth grade play Romeo and Juliet. There is plenty of drama happening on the middle school stage already with crushes, mean girls, cliques and rivalries. New girl Gemma with her good looks, British accent, and kind, cheery personality is a shoe in for Juliet. Maddie likes her, a lot, maybe as more than a friend. When the boy playing Romeo drops out only weeks before opening night, there is only one person who the director sees as a possible replacement. Is this Maddie dream role or her worst nightmare? Sprinkled with the Bard’s words, as well as the fun to be had using Shakespearean insults, this story will appeal to theatre geeks everywhere.
Simon has a major crush, the only problem is he doesn't know who he's crushing on. After a pseudonymous post about not being openly gay in his high school, he met Blue. Blue and Simon have been messaging ever since, and Simon can't get enough of him. When another student discovers their e-mail conversations, everything is put in jeopardy. Simon is blackmailed with the threat of having not only his secrets revealed, but Blue's as well. How will he keep their secrets safe while staying true to himself? How far will the blackmail go? And most importantly, who is Blue?
All the characters are fleshed out from the kid blackmailing Simon to his embarrassing but loving parents. The play brought me back to my own high school theatre days and the ending was simply perfect.
Erica's Picks 8th Grade Tags: character driven, contemporary fiction, LGBTQ, romance, school stories
Willow loves weddings, so she is excited Uncle Ash is getting married to David, and even more so when she finds out that she gets to be the flower girl. Their wedding will be on the beach and dessert will be her favorite: donuts with sprinkles. Everything will be perfect--if only she can convince her uncle to put his childhood fears behind him and dance.
This sweet story is a lesson in empathy. Willow learns that her uncle used to love dancing until he was in the school musical and got teased for his affinity for dance. Willow sets out to help him reclaim his love of dance to great success. Her care for others is on display at the wedding as she helps relatives: providing a blanket for an aunt who gets cold and a cool drink for an overheated uncle. Adults will appreciate this diverse but not didactic offering and kids will enjoy imagining they're at this fantastic beach and donuts wedding.
Willow and the Wedding by Denise Brennan-Nelson; illustrated by Cyd Moore
A young man survives a shipwreck in 1766 and goes on to create a dynasty of famous actors in London. Another runs away from his boarding school in 1990 to seek out his estranged and eccentric uncle who lives in an even more mysterious house. Their stories, told through pictures and words, intertwine in unexpected ways that will leave you flipping pages and looking for clues about how their stories meet.
This story completely wrecked me. I was deeply touched by the slowly unraveling story of the uncle and his mysterious house. I was drawn in by wondering how the two stories connected. After reading this, I made a point of visiting the museum that inspired it. The whole experience of this book is simply beautiful.
Not since the Penderwicks has there been such a loveable family novel. Four parents: two gay couples, a man from Yukon and one from Dehli plus a woman from Jamaica and a Mohawk woman. They all became best friends and decided to have a baby together. One of the moms wins the lottery and they buy a rambling big house that they call Camelottery and fill it with seven kids and five pets. Nine year old Sumac is the most level-headed of the lot until her world and her room are invaded by an aged grandfather no one has ever met as he and his son did not get along. Grumps has dementia and would rather be home in Alaska. Sumac tries to be nice but he disapproves of everything lottery including vegetables, whole grains, gay people, and the whole multicultural household. The family comes to see that sometimes the most contrary people are the ones who need love the most.This book is laugh out loud funny and would make a great read aloud.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd & 4th Summer 2017, 6th grade, Contemporary Fiction. Family Life, LGBTQ, People of Color
Braden just wants to keep his head down and play baseball. But his entire world is turned upside-down when his father is arrested for killing a police officer. His father is a well-known christian radio personality, which makes the case a field day for the press. Braden is the key witness in his trail, and in the midst of this circus he has to decide how he will testify. Everyone takes sides, and naturally his team has his back. The nephew of the cop Braden's father is accused of killing plays baseball at a neighboring school, and when the two teams face off, everyone feels that there's much more than a game at stake.
I'm not a baseball fan, but this book made me care about the game. Religion, politics, sexuality, sports, race: this book sounds like the recipe for an awkward and contentious dinner conversation, but somehow Gilbert pulls it all together into a fantastic and compelling novel.
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
Erica's Picks 8th & up Tags: Character Driven, Contemporary Fiction, Family Life, Issues Fiction, LGBTQ, Sports
"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl.I'm Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day." Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy and his new school's dress code won't even let him wear pants. He puts on the skirt of his new uniform and tears blur his vision. Angry tears at how unfair it is and how wrong he feels. Supported by his two moms, Liv tries various methods of protest (wearing pants under the skirt, organizing a petition) but nothing can budge the powers that be until he meets some new friends who embrace his cause. This is a book about identity, acceptance and celebrating who you are. Funny and empowering, this book will have you cheering for the pants project.
Tessa's Picks, 4th grade, 5th grade, Character driven, Issues Fiction, Friendship, School Stories, LGBTQ
Braden wants nothing more than to keep his head down and play baseball. But his entire world is turned upside-down when his father is arrested for killing a police officer. His father is a well-known christian radio personality, which makes the case a field day for the press. Braden is the key witness in his trail, and in the midst of this circus he has to decide how he will testify. Everyone takes sides, and naturally his team has his back. The nephew of the cop Braden's father is accused of killing plays baseball at a neighboring school, and when the two teams face off everyone feels that there's much more than a game at stake.
This book is unflinching in its portrayal of abuse, which makes it a difficult read at times. The family dynamic is complex and the characters are far from perfect. Religion, politics, sexuality, sports, race: this book sounds like the recipe for an awkward and contentious dinner conversation, but somehow Gilbert pulls it all together into a fantastic and compelling novel.
Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert Erica's Picks Tags:
Seth feels the impact of a rock against his head as the waters close in around him and he drowns. He dies in America, but he wakes up again in his childhood home in England. His neighbors' houses are exactly how he remembers them, except that nobody's home. He ventures into town for supplies and finds that nature has begun to reclaim the town with wild plants and animals. It's like nobody has lived there for years. He thinks he's in his own personal afterlife until he finds two others like him and a mysterious enemy that is hunting them all down. I always go into Patrick Ness novels expecting death, so I was actually a bit relieved when it came at the very beginning. I had hoped that would remove some of the suspense and eventual emotional devastation--oh how wrong I was! I think talking too much about the plot will just ruin it for people who haven't read it yet so I'll just say that I love the the characters and the mind-trip that was the ever-twisting plot.
More Than This by Patrick Ness
Erica's Picks 8th Tags: Adventure, Character Driven, Dystopian, LGBTQ, People of Color, Science Fiction, Tear Jerker
Have you ever seen a dragon attack up close? Felt the heat from their flame on your skin and smelled the sulfur in the air? Most people run for cover as soon as one is spotted. It takes a special type of person to run toward one. You need bravery, training, agility, skill, and a touch of madness. But slayers aren't the only ones crazy enough to seek out a dragon. Their trusty bards are always close behind. Everyone in Trondheim has great hopes for Owen, the youngest in a long line of dragonslayers. But before he can fulfill his destiny, he and his bard must face a more fearsome foe: his algebra test.
This story is a cross between an epic dragon-slaying fantasy novel and a regular school story about a new student in town. There's plenty of action as well as great bits about Owen's family (he is raised by his aunt who is a famous retired dragon slayer and her wife who is a blacksmith) and his budding friendship with the story's narrator (who has musical talent and becomes his bard/tutor.) An all around great novel! Erica's Picks 6th - 8th grade Tags: Adventure, Family Life, Fantasy, Friendship, LGBTQ, School Stories