I have a confession. This year, I’m really struggling to finish the nominees for the South Carolina Children’s Book Award. I had planned to read and review all of them before the start of the new school year. Well, considering that I returned to work yesterday, that didn’t quite work out. I did, however, manage to finish another of these books late Monday night, so I guess that’s something. Only eight more to go. Yeesh.
Anyhoo, my latest SCCBA nominee finished is Sky Jumpers by Peggy Eddleman, and I’m pleasantly surprised by its place on the nominee list. One doesn’t often see post-World War III books written for children, so this book was a breath of fresh air. (Once you read the book, you’ll realize that is sort of an inside joke.)
Hope Toriella isn’t like most people in White Rock. Her town, one of the few remaining after the green bombs of World War III, doesn’t have most of the luxuries enjoyed by its predecessors, so everyone does their part to invent the tools they need to survive and thrive. Everyone except Hope, it seems.
Despite her best efforts, Hope is simply no good at inventing. Her inventions tend to end in disaster, and she sees herself as something of an embarrassment. Hope finds some measure of solace and freedom in sky jumping, something she’s really good at…and something she’s not exactly supposed to do.
Whenever she can, Hope sneaks off to sky jump into the deadly Bomb’s Breath, residue left over from the war. Few other people will even go near this dangerous barrier, but Hope enjoys the thrill of doing something so forbidden. Little does she know that she’ll soon have to use her sky jumping abilities–and fearlessness–to save the town that often makes her feel so alone.
When bandits take over the town and attempt to steal rare and valuable medicines, Hope and her friends escape in an attempt to find help. They must travel through the treacherous Bomb’s Breath, endure a brutal blizzard, and survive long enough to summon the guard back to White Rock.
But will that be enough to fight off the bandits holding the town hostage? What more will Hope have to do to ensure the safety of her town and everyone she loves? And will Hope realize that she’s more than just a failed inventor?
When push comes to shove, Hope’s tendency to take risks and “leap before she looks” might just be White Rock’s ultimate salvation.
Although Sky Jumpers was a bit of a slow-starter, once I got a few chapters in, I was hooked. It was action-packed, the main character was a kick-butt girl who became a leader in the harshest of circumstances, and she used her strengths and abilities to do what had to be done. Two of her companions were male, but it wasn’t like the guys took over and she followed meekly behind. No, Hope did much of the heavy lifting, but she was also smart enough to rely on her companions’ strengths when the situations called for it. That’s pretty awesome.
While I don’t think Sky Jumpers is a perfect fit for all of my elementary students, I do think it’s a good pick for 4th or 5th grade students–and middle grade readers–who want something similar to The Hunger Games, Divergent, or The Maze Runner. (No, I don’t think elementary-age readers are quite ready for the series I just mentioned. A personal opinion that you’re free to disagree with.) Sky Jumpers may fill the desire for those types of books while still being developmentally appropriate for younger readers.
I also think Sky Jumpers is a great pick for IB schools. (Mine is one of those.) This book epitomizes the risk-taking aspect of the IB Learner Profile, and I plan to promote it that way to the teachers, parents, and students at my school. Hey, anything to get the book in the hands of readers!
Sky Jumpers is the first book in a series, so there’s definitely more to enjoy if this seems like your cup of tea. The second book, The Forbidden Flats, is already out, and I’ll definitely be placing it on my first order of the school year. There’s no information (yet) about a third book, but that info will probably be on author Peggy Eddleman’s website as soon as it’s available.
In the meantime, if you’re still not convinced to read Sky Jumpers or just want to know a little more about this fantastic book, check out the official book trailer below. Enjoy!