The Inside of Out

I had an unexpected connection with my latest read, The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne.

This story, which will be released on May 31st, takes place in and around Palmetto High School in South Carolina. I actually graduated (almost twenty years ago) from Palmetto High School in South Carolina. Now, the school in this book is located somewhere around Charleston, and my high school is in the Upstate (Anderson County, if you want specifics), roughly 200 miles away, but I still thought this connection was pretty cool. (Yes, I know I’m a dork.)

Anyhoo, The Inside of Out, takes a look at a very special friendship and what one girl will do to stay involved in her best friend’s life when things begin to change.

Daisy and Hannah are best friends. They share almost everything with each other. It comes as little surprise to Daisy, then, when Hannah comes out just before the start of their junior year. Daisy is beyond prepared to be a supportive friend…even though she despises Hannah’s girlfriend, Natalie. (There’s a bit of a history there.)

Even though Hannah shies away from the spotlight, Daisy is determined to be the staunchest ally her friend could ever hope for. She joins the school’s Gay Alliance, and, before she really knows what she’s doing, Daisy is leading a campaign to end the school’s ban on same-sex partners at dances. She actually becomes the face of this campaign–which is gaining international attention–and everyone simply assumes she’s a lesbian. Daisy plays along, but she’s straight. Surely this little white lie couldn’t lead to problems, could it? (I bet you’ve already figured out the answer to that question, haven’t you?)

Daisy’s fight for equality is getting out of hand, and her relationship with Hannah is suffering. Hannah never really wanted any of this, and it’s driving a wedge between the two friends…and between Hannah and Natalie. Daisy’s love life isn’t much better. What could be a connection with a college journalist takes a back seat to Daisy’s quest to create an inclusive homecoming event.

Everything is spiraling out of control, and Daisy doesn’t know if she can hold on. How can she possibly deliver on everything she’s promised? What will all of this mean for her friendship with Hannah? Is there any way for Daisy to untangle the mess she’s made while being true to herself and her best friend? Find out when you read The Inside of Out by Jenn Marie Thorne!


So…even though Daisy was grating at times and I found the ending to be a tad unrealistic, I did enjoy this book. I think it’s a good look at what it might be like to be the straight best friend. I know it’s all-too-easy to see people as issues instead of friends. Daisy took things a bit farther than most probably would, but I can understand how she would want to be supportive of her friend no matter what.

I also think The Inside of Out addresses the issue of privilege in an easy-to-understand way. At the end of the book, Daisy is called out on her gung-ho quest for equality. If she fails, she really loses nothing. She can go home, live her life, and nothing major will change. For many of the other students in the Gay Alliance, however, that’s not the case. They face ridicule, hatred, and even violence regularly, and that will still be true whether or not Daisy’s plans fail. This book has helped me to check my own privilege and look at a variety of issues and scenarios through different lenses.

I think The Inside of Out is a great pick for libraries that serve young adults. It is an especially important book for collections looking to build up their book selections for LGBTQIA readers and allies.

If you’d like to learn more about this book and Jenn Marie Thorne, visit the author’s website, and remember to look for The Inside of Out on May 31st!

A Million Ways Home

Last night, I finished one more of the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget. Those who know me can take one look at the book’s cover and figure out why I was a little hesitant to read this one.

That’s right. There’s a dog on the cover.

Well, I read the book anyway, and I have to admit that I’m glad I did. Though the dog plays a part in things, he’s not the major focus of the book. That honor goes to Poppy, a girl dealing with much more than any kid should be expected to handle.


After Poppy Parker’s grandmother suffers a stroke, the girl is sent to live in the North Shore Children’s Center. Poppy hates it here (with good reason), and she’s willing to do just about anything to reunite with her grandmother…even run away.

Poppy tries to make her way to the hospital to see Grandma Beth, but things quickly turn south. After a brief stop at a convenience store, Poppy becomes the sole witness to a horrible crime, an armed robbery and murder. The suspect knows her face and her name, so Poppy is placed under police protection, specifically in the home of Detective Trey Brannigan and his mother, Marti.

It doesn’t take long for Poppy to feel safe in this temporary home. She likes her caregivers, and she enjoys helping Marti at the animal shelter. She even manages to make a couple of friends–one human and one canine. Lizzie, the human, is a girl with troubles of her own. Gunner, the canine, is a beautiful German Shepherd who isn’t all that different from Lizzie. Both of them need someone to love them and be patient with them, and that person is Poppy.

Even with all these positives, though, Poppy longs for things to go back to the way they used to be. She wants her grandmother to get better. She wants to go back to their apartment and not have all these worries weighing on her. Surely, life can one day be normal again for Poppy and and her grandmother.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. There’s still the matter of a dangerous criminal on the loose and looking for Poppy. Also, Grandma Beth isn’t recovering like Poppy hoped she would. Things are looking bleak, and Poppy doesn’t know what to do.

Will Poppy ever be able to return home? Will her grandmother get better? Will the police ever catch the guy putting Poppy in danger? And what will happen with Lizzie and Gunner?

Learn how Poppy navigates through the waters of uncertainty, friendship, grief, and love to find her way home when you read A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.


A Million Ways Home is a quick, moving, and entertaining read that is sure to appeal to upper elementary and middle grade readers. Readers will empathize with Poppy and wonder what they would do if placed in similar situations.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that it is too “busy.” There’s already a lot going on in this book–Poppy’s reluctance to go back to the children’s center, her encounter with a criminal, Grandma Beth’s illness, Gunner’s fate, Lizzie’s problems, etc. Adding revelations about Poppy’s parents, Trey’s regrets, and even Lizzie’s issues with her dad, in my opinion, muddy the waters a bit and make the narrative confusing at times. I understand why the author included these details, but I didn’t feel like they contributed a great deal to the story as a whole. Just my two cents.

My issues aside, I do think my students will enjoy A Million Ways Home, and I’m happy it’s on next year’s SCCBA list. Now, I get to figure out how to sum up this book in a minute-long book trailer to help me with promoting it! (Check my library’s YouTube channel later to see what I come up with.)

For more information on A Million Ways Home and other books by Dianna Dorisi Winget, visit the author’s website.

Happy reading!

The Hidden Oracle

Caution: You might want to read the entire Percy Jackson and the Olympians (The Lightning Thief, The Sea of Monsters, The Titan’s Curse, The Battle of the Labyrinth, The Last Olympian) and The Heroes of Olympus series (The Lost Hero, The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, The House of Hades, The Blood of Olympus) before proceeding.

It should come as no surprise that I love Rick Riordan’s latest offering. The Hidden Oracle, book one in the new Trials of Apollo series, is as wonderful as everything else I’ve read by this amazing author. It takes readers back to Camp Half-Blood, but the approach is a bit different in this book. As you may have surmised from the series title, we’re seeing the action from Apollo’s perspective.

You may know Apollo as the Greek god of the sun, music, prophecy, archery, poetry, and so on, but there’s a bit of a hiccup in the life of this deity. After the events of the war with Gaea, Zeus is kind of upset with Apollo and decides to punish him. What does dear old dad do? He makes Apollo human, of course, and that is where our fun begins.

What could have been so bad for Apollo to deserve such a fate? Now mortal and stuck in the body of a flabby, acne-ridden sixteen-year-old known as Lester Papadopoulos, this once-perfect specimen must find a way back into Zeus’ good graces. That might prove difficult given that someone is trying take advantage of Apollo’s weakness and kill him.

Unexpected help comes in the form of one Meg McCaffrey, a strange girl–obviously a demigod–who fights like few Apollo has ever seen. Meg’s assistance, however, comes with a price.  Apollo is bound to serve Meg and complete a series of trials to earn back the favor of Zeus. No biggie, right? Yeah…nothing is ever that easy when it comes to Greek gods.

After a rather harrowing beginning in the streets of New York City, Apollo, Meg, and a familiar face make their way to Camp Half-Blood. Surely Apollo can get some sort of help at this refuge for demigods. After all, who wouldn’t want to help him? He’s clearly awesome.

Things at Camp Half-Blood, though, aren’t exactly rosy. Campers are disappearing, communication lines are down, there have been no new prophecies in a while, and no one really knows what’s going on or what to do about it. It’s clear that something major is happening, but what?

Who’s responsible for all this madness and mayhem, and what could Apollo, a once all-powerful, now virtually powerless god, possibly do to remedy the situation and prevent catastrophe from striking Camp Half-Blood? Who will help–or hinder–him in his search for a solution? And what could all of this mean for the future of Camp Half-Blood…and the world as we know it?


Yeah…this post, like so many before it, doesn’t even come close to capturing how fantastic this book is. It’s peppered with snark and sarcasm, like Riordan’s other books, but this book also has something we haven’t seen before from this author–haiku. Each chapter begins with a haiku, written by Apollo, that foreshadows what we’ll encounter. It’s awesome, and I hope that it encourages many readers to write their own haiku, the more ridiculous the better.

In addition to the fabulous haiku, Apollo’s voice in this book–and I’m guessing the rest of the series–is equally exceptional. Just what does a god made human think of himself? Well, wonder no more. At the beginning of the book, Apollo, though humiliated at being made mortal, is also extremely impressed with himself. Sure, there are things he’s done that he’s not 100% proud of, but those don’t give him much pause. Or do they? As the story progresses, we see that Apollo does have regrets and that he’s at least trying to make amends. Is he successful? Well, that’s really for the reader (and Zeus) to decide.

Before I give too much away, I’m going to end this post. Suffice it to say that The Hidden Oracle is exactly what we’ve come to expect from Rick Riordan…and so much more. I can hardly wait to read more of Apollo’s exploits, but waiting is what I’ll have to do (as usual). Book two, The Dark Prophecy, won’t be out until next May.

In the meantime, you might want to learn more about all of Rick Riordan’s fabulous books on his website. You may also want to check out Disney Books’ hilarious, spot-on book trailers for The Hidden Oracle. I’ve included two of them here. There’s one more, focusing on the sun, that I couldn’t get to work.

The Phantom Tollbooth

For the final meeting of my school’s faculty book club this year, we (I) decided to read books we’ve been meaning to read but never made time for. This could mean classics that have been around for decades, new releases that we’ve heard others talking about, or anything in between.

My pick, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, qualifies as a classic, in my opinion. Originally published in 1961, it’s been around a while, and I’d heard it mentioned once or twice. I’d even noticed it on my library shelves, but I never really got the push I needed to read it until my latest book club assignment. Well, I finished reading it last night, and I could kick myself for waiting so long to pick up this wondrous book. Anyone who’s a fan of wordplay, number play, or moral lessons within the pages of children’s books will find something to love in The Phantom Tollbooth, a book that is both timely and timeless.

Milo is bored. Nothing interests him, and he’s not motivated to do much of anything. Everything changes, however, when a tollbooth appears in his bedroom. Milo, lacking anything pressing to do, pays his toll and drives on through. Through to where, you ask? Well, that’s the tricky part…

Milo finds himself outside the Kingdom of Wisdom, and things are a bit different here. This troubled land, ruled by King Azaz the Unabridged of Dictionopolis and the Mathemagician of Digitopolis, has not been the same since the princesses Rhyme and Reason were banished.

Milo, joined by Tock (a watchdog) and the Humbug, is eventually tasked with rescuing Rhyme and Reason from the Castle in the Air and returning the princesses to their rightful place in the Kingdom of Wisdom. Only then can order be restored.

Along the way, Milo and company encounter many beings who change the way they see the world around them. They begin to see things from different points of view, and they look at things like sound, color, words, and numbers in a whole new way.

They also encounter their share of trouble. Before Milo, Tock, and the Humbug can reach the princesses, they must first pass through the Mountains of Ignorance. Horrible figures like the Gelatinous Giant and the Terrible Trivium seek to stop this heroic quest, but their efforts are for naught. Milo and friends escape with the princesses, and the armies of Wisdom drive away the vicious demons of Ignorance.

All is well–for now–with Rhyme and Reason back in their place. The Kingdom of Wisdom celebrates, and King Azaz and the Mathemagician vow to do all they can to keep Ignorance at bay. His quest complete, Milo says farewell to his friends and returns to his bedroom by way of the phantom tollbooth, ready to look at his own world in a new light.


Unlike King Azaz, the recap above is super-duper abridged. I can’t even begin to go into all of the humorous word and number play in this amazing book, but I will highlight a couple of things.

Lest you think that The Phantom Tollbooth is simply a children’s book, I urge you to think again. It challenges readers to truly appreciate the world around them, experience all that world has to offer, and do whatever they can to fend off ignorance in the world. A timely message, yes? Consider the passage below, wherein the demons of Ignorance are chasing after Milo and friends, and think about how similar this may be to certain political figures:

“From off on the right, his heavy bulbous body lurching dangerously on the spindly legs which barely supported him, came the Overbearing Know-it-all, talking continuously. A dismal demon who was mostly mouth, he was ready at a moment’s notice to offer misinformation on any subject. And, while he often tumbled heavily, it was never he who was hurt, but, rather, the unfortunate person on whom he fell.

Next to him, but just a little behind, came the Gross Exaggeration, whose grotesque features and thoroughly unpleasant manners were hideous to see, and whose rows of wicked teeth were made only to mangle the truth. They hunted together, and were bad luck to anyone they caught.”

Sound familiar?

Even if you’re not at all interested in the similarities to our current political climate, you’re sure to enjoy the often hilarious wordplay in this book, especially if you’re a fan of puns. The Phantom Tollbooth would be an excellent read-aloud in upper elementary and middle grades and is perfect for studying idioms. One of my favorite parts of the book, which occurred early on, was the island of Conclusions. And how does one get to this island? You jump there, of course! That’s just one of the many examples of fun wordplay in this magical book.

The Phantom Tollbooth is a book you need to experience for yourself. This is a book that nearly any reader–from about third grade on up through adulthood–can and should enjoy. There’s definitely something here for everyone, especially those who’ve found joy in Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, or The Wind in the Willows. I look forward to talking to my book club about this read and encouraging all of them to give it a try!

After the End

After the End by Amy Plum has been on my TBR list for a while. I loved Plum’s Die for Me series, so I was confident I would like this book, the first in a duology. As it turns out, I did like After the End, but I also found it kind of frustrating…especially since I didn’t realize until after I’d finished it that it was only book one. (Luckily, the paperback version of book two comes out today. Hooray!)

Juneau, a seventeen-year-old girl living with her clan in the Alaskan wilderness, has grown up knowing that she is one of the few survivors of the fallout of World War III. She and her clan commune with nature and avoid anything and everything outside of their boundaries. Juneau is set to become the clan’s new sage, she feels connected to Yara, or the force that holds all of nature together, and she is confident of her place in the clan.

Everything changes, however, when all Juneau has ever known disappears in an instant. She knows something is amiss when, while on a hunting trip, she hears helicopters in the distance. Juneau rushes back to her clan only to learn that no one is there. Everyone, including her father, has been kidnapped, and Juneau is the only one left to discover why and where they were taken. It’s up to her to rescue them from an uncertain fate.

Juneau crosses her clan’s boundaries for the first time in her search for answers, but she’s not prepared for some of the answers she receives. It seems that nearly everything she believed was a lie. There was no World War III, no nuclear devastation, no reason for her clan to be so isolated. So why were they? Why have they been taken now? And what do those responsible for her clan’s disappearance want with Juneau?

Someone who may have the resources to answer at least one of these questions is Miles. Miles Blackwell is the eighteen-year-old son of a pharmaceutical firm CEO. While Miles is at home–after being kicked out of school–he overhears his father talking about the search for a young girl in Alaska. He figures that he can maybe find this girl and somehow get back in his father’s good graces. What could possibly go wrong?

Miles is on the hunt for Juneau while Juneau is searching for her clan, and the two eventually cross paths. Miles doesn’t exactly buy all of the Yara stuff that Juneau is talking about. His goal is to turn this girl in to his father. Eventually, though, he comes to realize that there is something special–supernatural even–about this girl, and he begins to change his tune. He wants to help her, but how? And what exactly does his father want with her?

As Juneau and Miles get closer to the truth, they will encounter some uncomfortable realizations about their families and what they believed about the world around them. Will they be able to figure out what’s really going on, find Juneau’s clan, and escape those who would do almost anything to stop them? We shall see…


If you’re as avid a reader as I am, you no doubt know the frustration that comes when you get close to the end of a book and there simply aren’t enough pages for everything that needs to happen. That’s what I endured as After the End drew to a close, so it’s good that there’s another book, Until the Beginning, to look forward to, but I’m still a little dissatisfied. Hopefully, that feeling will change when I read book two.

Minor frustrations aside, I do think After the End is a good book. It’s gripping, puzzling, and thought-provoking. The two different perspectives in the book–and how they come together–make for a very interesting read, and the larger ethical dilemmas presented in the book could lead to some intriguing discussions.

If you’d like to learn more about After the End and other books by Amy Plum, check out the author’s website. You may also want to connect with her via Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Instagram.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing

A word to the wise: Read Three Times Lucky before diving into The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing…or this post. While it’s not absolutely necessary to read the first book before the second, it is a good idea. Also, if you read the second book, you’re going to want to see what preceded it, so you might as well read the books in order.

A few years ago, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage was a nominee for the 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Now, the sequel, The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, has made it to the same list for 2016-17. If you go back and read my post on the first book, all the same stuff applies to this one. This series–which currently includes three books–has one of the best examples of character voice and descriptive language that I’ve come across in my six years as an elementary school librarian. Readers of all ages are sure to adore Mo LoBeau and her trusty sidekick, Dale Earnhardt Johnson III, and the trouble they find with their work in the Desperado Detective Agency.

All anyone can talk about lately in the small town of Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, is the auction of the old–supposedly haunted–inn. Mo LoBeau, co-founder of the Desperado Detective Agency, doesn’t go looking to take on a haunted inn as one of her cases, but things have a way of falling into her lap, especially when Miss Lana and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton sort of accidentally purchase the inn in question.

Pretty soon, Mo and Dale are doing their best to solve the big mystery of the Tupelo Inn…while getting a bona fide supernatural source for their big history report. Sure, it gets scary at times, but these Mo and Dale–along with a new and unexpected ally–are on the case, and they’re determined to find out what this ghost’s story is.

As often happens, especially when it comes to matters involving Mo LoBeau, things get complicated quickly. Someone–or something–is trying to keep Mo and company out of the inn. What could anyone else possibly want with an old, broken down inn? Besides a ghost, what other secrets could this old place be hiding?

Mo and Dale are getting closer and closer to discovering the truth about the Tupelo Inn and its ghostly inhabitant, but what else will they discover along the way? Some people may not encounter an actual ghost, but they may be haunted by their pasts just the same. Can Mo and Dale solve more than one mystery surrounding this inn…before it’s too late?

Help Mo and Dale unravel the mystery of the Tupelo Inn when you read The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage!


I don’t think this post in any way captures what an outstanding book this is. It is moving, mysterious, and laugh-out-loud funny. That’s not a combo one sees all that often, but Sheila Turnage makes it look effortless. I am now super-eager to get my hands on the third Mo and Dale book, The Odds of Getting Even. Like Three Times Lucky and The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the third installment stays checked out of my library, so I’ve got a wait ahead of me.

The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and the other books in this series would serve as excellent class read-alouds, particularly when discussing voice or figurative language. Readers will fall in love with the character of Mo, but they’ll also appreciate all of the other unique characters in these books. Many readers who live in small towns may find something familiar–and rather comforting–about Tupelo Landing and its odd assortment of citizens. Maybe they’ll be inspired to write their own hometown tales.

If you’d like to learn more about The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing and the other books in this series, be sure to visit author Sheila Turnage’s website. You can also like her Facebook page and check out the totally spoiler-free book trailer below. Enjoy!

P.S. I Still Love You

Warning! Turn back now if you haven’t read To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. P.S. I Still Love You is not a stand-alone novel. You need to read the first book to fully appreciate the second.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s turn our attention to P.S. I Still Love You by the fabulous Jenny Han. This book as been on my TBR list since I finished the first book, and I finally got the chance to read it this weekend. (Thank you, Overdrive!) Like the first book, it is a quick, light read, and it thoroughly grabs the reader’s attention, especially if you love the first book. What’s more, the main character, Lara Jean, is Asian American, representation that is sorely lacking in a lot of contemporary YA romance. And this book, like its predecessor, is definitely a romance at its core.

Lara Jean Song Covey desperately hopes she hasn’t ruined things with Peter. Sure, at first they were just pretending to be into each other, but it soon became real for both of them. But now Lara Jean doesn’t know what to do. Maybe a letter, like the one that brought them together in the first place, will help the situation. It can’t hurt, right?

As it turns out, Peter is just as eager to start a real relationship as Lara Jean is. The two reunite, but their reunion isn’t as sweet as one would hope. Someone secretly videos what should have been a private moment between Lara Jean and Peter and plasters it all over the Internet. It goes viral. It becomes a meme.

Lara Jean is mortified. Peter is vowing to stop whoever posted the video, but the damage has been done…and Lara Jean is pretty sure she knows who’s responsible. Unfortunately, Peter has blinders on when it comes to the culprit (the vile Genevieve), and this incident is driving a wedge between him and Lara Jean.

Peter and Lara Jean are drifting apart–thanks largely to the machinations of Genevieve, Peter’s ex–but there’s another guy just waiting in the wings for Lara Jean’s attention…another guy who received one of her infamous love letters way back when.

John Ambrose McClaren seems to be the perfect guy. He’s smart, tall, respectful, handsome, and he’s interested in a lot of the same things as Lara Jean. Part of her really likes him and wonders what could come of a relationship…but another part of her still has feelings for Peter. What’s a girl to do when she’s torn between two guys?

Well, as is often the case, Lara Jean follows her heart. Who will it lead her to? Find out for yourself when you read P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han!


So…I don’t know that I liked this sequel as much as the first book, but I still found it to be a very entertaining read. Also, as I think I mentioned in my post on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, I related a bit to the character of Lara Jean. No, I’m not Korean, or girly, or a good cook, or at all interested in romance, but I’ve always been a “good girl.” Yes, I argue a bit with my parents, but we’ve always had a very good relationship, and, even as a teenager, I respected them and their rules. (Seriously. I broke curfew exactly one time, and I felt worse about it than they did. I doubt they even remember it.) It’s nice to see that reflected in modern YA literature. More often than not, teens are depicted as rebellious–even disdainful–of their parents (when the parents are in the picture at all), so I really appreciate it when I see something that resembles more of my own experiences.

As far as who Lara Jean should end up with in this book, I have a feeling that will be up for debate with a lot of readers. Will you be Team Peter or Team John Ambrose McClaren? (Yes, it is necessary to say his full name.) I won’t come right out and tell you who Lara Jean ends up with, but I will say that I am most definitely Team John Ambrose McClaren. In my most humble opinion, he’s a great match for Lara Jean. I doubt I’m the only one who feels this way.

Even though P.S. I Still Love You is a fairly light read, it does deal with issues like cyberbullying and deciding when it’s the right time to enter into a sexual relationship. I think some middle school students may be able to handle the situations as presented in the book, but others won’t. Know your readers before recommending this book or its predecessor to middle grade audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about P.S. I Still Love You or To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, take a look at the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.