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.

Wild Swans

Thanks to NetGalley, I was fortunate enough to read an early copy of Wild Swans, the latest novel from Jessica Spotswood. I finished the book late last night, and, while I’m paying for it today (seriously, there is not enough coffee to get me going), the time I spent reading this riveting book was well worth it. It is a great example of contemporary YA fiction, and I think many libraries that serve teen readers will be adding it to their shelves.

Ivy Milbourn knows a little something about pressure. Her grandfather drives her to be the best (at nearly everything) and live up to the Milbourn family legacy. But what legacy is that? Using her talent to achieve success? Dying too young? Or abandoning her family?

A few Milbourn women took care of those first two things, and Ivy’s own mother handled the last. Ivy wants to be successful–without being driven crazy–but she also wants to prove that she’s nothing like her mother, a woman she hasn’t seen since she was two years old. Ivy is looking for a way to stand out, but she’s constantly tormented by her own feelings of mediocrity.

Well, this summer, which Ivy thought was going to be relatively pressure-free, may just be the one that breaks her and forces her to really examine what it means to be a Milbourn woman. Ivy’s mother, Erica, has come back home…with Ivy’s two little sisters.

Ivy doesn’t quite know how to handle her mom’s sudden reappearance, especially when faced with Erica’s blatant animosity. Why does her mom hate her so much? What could a two-year-old have possibly done to earn so much loathing, and why does this virtual stranger seem to delight in making Ivy miserable now? What’s more…why does Erica insist that Ivy’s sisters never know of their true relationship?

As if this huge mess with her mom and sisters is not enough, Ivy is also dealing with a changing dynamic between her and her best friend, a potential love interest (who is also one of her grandfather’s students), and the continuing struggle to both live up to and break free of her grandfather’s expectations and the Milbourn family legacy.

Will Ivy be able to handle all of the burdens on her young shoulders? Will she crack under the pressure or find some way to rise above it all while remaining true to herself?

Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read Wild Swans by Jessica Spotswood.


Any reader who’s ever dealt with family pressure will find something to relate to in Ivy. (Doesn’t narrow the audience down much, does it?) Ivy didn’t always handle things in the best way, but she did experience quite a bit of personal growth throughout the course of the book. She learned to speak up for herself and let others know how they made her feel. It wasn’t easy, but Ivy came to realize that it was necessary. That’s a lesson that many adults–myself included–have yet to learn.

As much as I liked this book and most of the main and supporting characters, I have to say that I loathed Erica. (Kudos to the author for making me despise someone so much.) This woman’s behavior was absolutely atrocious for the vast majority of the book. Erica is definitely a character that readers will love to hate, and they’ll cheer when Ivy finally confronts her. Even though there is a hint of redemption for this troubled woman by the end of the book, she still comes off as the villain of the piece…as she should.

Wild Swans, which will be released on May 3rd, is a good fit for teen readers. I wouldn’t recommend it for middle grade readers, simply because there is some frank talk of sexual situations, a lot of underage alcohol use, and a fair amount of swearing. (Having worked in a middle school, I’m not stupid enough to think that some middle school students don’t have experience with that stuff, but I am certain that they’re not mature enough to deal with a lot of it.) This is a book for high school libraries and YA collections.

If you’d like more information on Wild Swans and other books by Jessica Spotswood, check out the author’s website as well as her Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads pages.

Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood

Last year, I read Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, and I immediately became a fan of author Liesl Shurtliff’s work. I promoted Rump to my teachers and students, and every copy of this book stays off my library shelves. (It didn’t hurt that Rump was a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award and also served as one of my district’s Battle of the Books titles.)

Shurtliff’s second fairy tale retelling, Jack: The True Story of Jack & the Beanstalk, is almost as popular as Rump. In fact, Jack is so popular that I haven’t had a chance to check it out for myself yet. So when NetGalley gave me the opportunity to read Shurtliff’s latest book, Red: The True Story of Red Riding Hood, I jumped at the chance.

Those who’ve already read Rump know a little about the Red we meet in this novel. (She was Rump’s best friend, after all.) She is not like the Little Red Riding Hood we’ve grown up reading about. She is no sweet little miss who mistakes her grandma for a wily wolf. No, this girl is grumpy, self-sufficient, and crafty in her own right. But in Red, this young girl must face her fears while attempting to figure out what really makes someone into a monster.

Red’s favorite person in the world is probably her granny. Some people call Granny a witch, but Red knows that Granny does whatever she can to help others. She’s even tried to help Red control her own magic, but that usually doesn’t end well. When Granny gets sick, Red vows to do whatever she can to find a cure for Granny’s illness, something to ensure that Granny will live forever.

In her quest for a cure, Red meets another young girl searching for a magical elixir of her own. Goldie (better known to you and me as Goldilocks) is a hyper, chatty girl who Red finds annoying. Red tries to lose Goldie in the Woods, but a dangerous encounter brings the two girls together, and a rather unlikely friendship begins to form.

Now, the two girls are working together to find something that will help Granny. They enlist the assistance of a rather reluctant dwarf who leads them to some possible “cures.” But Red learns quickly that these magical cures come with a price, a price she may not be willing to pay…even if it means making Granny well again.

Throughout this quest, Red also finds herself growing closer to Wolf. She and this lonely animal share a special connection, and she soon realizes that he’s dealing with his own problems, namely a Huntsman who is feared above all others in the Woods. Red is familiar with the Huntsman and does not see him as a threat…until she and her friends get in his way.

Can Red, Goldie, and Wolf escape the trouble following them? What will they encounter along the way? Will Red be able to find what she needs to help her Granny and face her own fears in the process?

Forget what you think you know about Little Red Riding Hood and learn the real story when you read Red by Liesl Shurtliff!


If possible, I think I love Red even more than Rump. Red is an awesomely complicated character who shows enormous growth throughout the course of the book. She goes from a grumpy, annoyed loner frightened of her own magic to a slightly less grumpy friend who faces her fears and is confident in her abilities.

As if Red herself isn’t a big enough deal, don’t even get me started on all of the wonderful appearances from familiar characters. We have references to Goldilocks and the Three Bears (of course), as well as Snow White (who may not have been as beloved by the seven dwarves as previously thought), Rumpelstiltskin, Sleeping Beauty, and a fantastic twist on Beauty and the Beast. I’m sure there are more allusions, but I just can’t recall all of them right now. Suffice it to say, though, that readers will delight in making these connections, and they’ll learn that there may be more than one side to their favorite stories.

Red will be released to the masses next Tuesday, April 12th, and I’ve already got students asking me when we’ll have the book in the library. (I guess I’ll be making a run to the closest bookstore after school next Tuesday.) Most of those students have already read Rump, so I predict they’ll be equally–if not even more–charmed by Red, and they’ll probably want to know when to expect the next offering from Liesl Shurtliff. (I wish I had the answer to that question myself.)

For more information on Red and other works by Liesl Shurtliff, you can connect with the author on her website, TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads. Also, check out the Red book trailer below. It covers a couple of things that I kind of glossed over in this post…and it’s really well done!

Lady Midnight

Unless you are brand new to this blog, you know that I have a mild obsession with Cassandra Clare’s writing. Despite the current controversy (which I won’t go into here) and the less-than-spectacular movie and TV adaptations of her work, I remain a loyal fan. My enjoyment of her writing has only increased with her latest novel, Lady Midnight, the first book in the new Dark Artifices trilogy.

But before we move on to Lady Midnight, if you’re not already familiar with Clare’s Shadowhunter novels, you’ve got a bit of catching up to do. Read these books first:

For whatever reason, I neglected to write posts on City of Ashes or The Bane Chronicles. Trust me, they’re just as awesome as the other books. In the case of The Bane Chronicles, probably more awesome. (It’s no secret that the High Warlock of Brooklyn is my favorite character.)


Now, let’s turn our attention to Lady Midnight. Some may be a little shocked that I’m just now getting around to posting on this book, especially considering my love of Clare’s books. I promise I have very good reasons.

  1. I pre-ordered the book through Barnes & Noble, and it didn’t arrive at my house until March 11th, three days after the release date. (I can’t complain too much, though. I did get an autographed copy.)
  2. My school book fair kicked off on March 10th and didn’t wrap up until yesterday. If you’ve ever run an elementary school book fair, you know how exhausting it is. I barely had enough energy to read more than a couple of chapters before passing out each night.
  3. My Battle of the Books team has been preparing for competition. Our regionals were this past Tuesday, and I’m pleased to report that we’re moving on to finals next week.

Even with all of that going on, I did manage to finish Lady Midnight last night, and, like I expected, it made me want to weep, rage, and throw things. I mean that in the best possible way.

Lady Midnight takes place in Los Angeles and focuses primarily on Emma Carstairs and Julian Blackthorn. These parabatai live at the LA Institute with the younger Blackthorn children–Ty, Livvy, Dru, and Tavvy–their mostly absent uncle Arthur, and Cristina, a Shadowhunter visiting from Mexico (and possibly escaping her own past).

It’s been five years since the Dark War that took so many Shadowhunters from them, including Emma’s parents and Julian’s father, and time has molded both Emma and Julian into much more than the children they once were. Emma is bent on finding out what really happened to her parents, and Julian is doing everything he can to keep his family together while hiding his wealth of feelings from everyone around him.

When strange murders with possible demonic ties begin occurring in LA, Emma and Julian know they must investigate…but there’s a problem. Some of the victims are Faeries, and the Cold Peace prevents Shadowhunters from investigating crimes involving Faeries. That doesn’t exactly stop Emma and Julian, and the waters get even more muddied when a Faerie convoy arrives at the Institute with an incentive for the young Shadowhunters to provide assistance. In return for their help in capturing the killer and handing him/her over to the Fey, they’ll return Mark Blackthorn–half-Fey, half-Shadowhunter, member of the Wild Hunt, and Julian’s older brother–back to his family.

Mark’s sudden return to his family is an adjustment for everyone…most especially Mark. He struggles with what it means to be part of the human world once more. Part of him longs to return to the Wild Hunt…and what he left behind. Another part of him wants to contribute to his family, but so much has changed since he left. Where exactly does he fit?

As Mark is dealing with his own turmoil, so are Emma and Julian. Emma is certain that the odd murders in LA are somehow tied to her parents. She recklessly follows every lead she can, leading herself and others into more danger than they expected.

As for Julian, he’s finding it harder and harder to hold everything and everyone together. So much has been placed on his young shoulders, and he’s not sure how much more he can handle. Throw in the fact that he’s in love with Emma, his parabatai, and things get even more complicated.

Even as Emma and Julian grow closer together, closer than is allowed by Shadowhunter law, danger and betrayal are making their way toward the Los Angeles Institute and its inhabitants. Who will be left standing when all is said and done? What will be unleashed should these young Shadowhunters fail to stop the maniacal killer? What could it all mean for the Blackthorns and their closest allies?

Read Lady Midnight, the first book of The Dark Artifices, to learn the answers to these questions and many more…


Oh, I have left out sooooo much here. I didn’t even really touch on Cristina’s issues, Ty and how the Clave views those who are “different,” or the appearance of the “Lost Herondale.” I couldn’t possibly cover everything in one blog post, so I’m not even going to try. Suffice it to say that a LOT happens in the nearly 700 pages of this book, and everything is important.

If you’re also a Shadowhunter fan, you’ll be pleased to know that we do see some old favorites in Lady Midnight. Tessa, Jem, Magnus, Jace, Clary, and Church all make appearances, and I’m confident we’ll see more of them as the series progresses.

Speaking of the rest of the series, the next book, Lord of Shadows, is set to be released in May of 2017, and book three, The Queen of Air and Darkness will be out sometime in 2018. Long waits ahead, people.

If you’d like more information on Lady Midnight and all things Shadowhunter, visit Cassie Clare’s website, Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, and Mundie Moms. You may also want to check out the video below from Cassie herself.

That’s all from me for now. I hope you enjoy Lady Midnight as much as I did!

Gaby, Lost and Found

It’s not easy being an elementary school librarian when you tend to avoid fiction books with animals on the covers. (I’m forever scarred from reading Old Yeller as a child.) It’s especially difficult when your state book award program has a few animal books on the lists every year. Such is life.

Well, this week, I turned my attention to one of the animal books I have to read. Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes, a nominee for the 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award, appears to be a “cat book” at first glance. (See cover below.) Cats (and dogs) do play a big part in this book, but they are not the central characters, in my opinion. No, that honor goes to Gaby Howard, a young girl who, like the animals she cares for, is looking for some sense of home.

The past few months have not been easy for Gaby Ramirez Howard. Her mother has been deported to Honduras, her distant father has moved into the house and often forgets to pay bills or go grocery shopping, and mean girls at school ridicule her because of her mom’s situation. Gaby just wants her mom to return and for things to go back to normal. She’s tired of going hungry and worrying about the future. Gaby waits for the day her mom will come back and they can be happy again, but the wait is getting to her.

Gaby’s life is not all bad, though. She has loyal friends, and she’s excited about her sixth grade class’ new service project–volunteering at the Furry Friends Animal Shelter.

Gaby loves her work at the animal shelter. She dotes on the sweet kittens, plays with the dogs, and writes profiles of the animals to convince people to adopt these lovable pets. Her profiles, paired with pictures of the animals, are posted around the community, and Gaby is thrilled that people are reading them and coming into the shelter to give the animals forever homes.

There’s one cat at the shelter who Gaby would love to have for her own. The cat, Feather, was abandoned by her previous owners, and Gaby feels a certain kinship with the little cat. She knows what it’s like to be left alone and wondering if she’ll ever feel truly safe and loved again. If only Gaby could adopt Feather and give her the home that she deserves…

As the days pass, worries about Feather’s future and her mom’s return plague Gaby. Her worries are affecting her friendships, her work at the shelter, and Gaby is doing things that she knows she shouldn’t. And when she receives news that derails all of her thoughts of a happy family, Gaby doesn’t know what to do. She feels so lost…

But maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for Gaby. Maybe she and Feather can somehow find forever homes of their very own…

_______________

I liked Gaby, Lost and Found much more than I thought I would. I even teared up a little bit. (Okay, a lot.) I’m not much of an animal person, but this book almost convinced me to take a trip to the animal shelter in my town. (Almost. I can barely take care of myself. I would not be a good pet owner.)

Gaby’s class service project was pretty awesome, and I can see how this book could inspire school groups to do some work at animal shelters in their own towns. I especially liked the profiles Gaby wrote for the animals. What a great way to combine service learning with creative writing!

I do thing Gaby, Lost and Found fills a void in a lot of libraries that serve upper elementary and middle grade readers. First, it features an Hispanic American female protagonist. That’s a big reason to celebrate this book, but it also deals with the subject of deportation and its impact on families.

We don’t often see stories about deportation, especially accounts of the children left behind. Sure, we see cases on the news of raids in factories or calls from politicians to round up those living and working in America illegally, but we don’t see what happens after that. This book gives just a small glimpse into what happened in one girl’s life–how her sense of home and family was taken away, how her life became one big worry after another, and how she had to face growing up without her mother. I think this is an important topic for young readers to consider. More importantly, though, I’d urge teachers and parents to read this book with children and try to examine attitudes about immigration, deportation, and the turmoil that can result in the families affected by it. It’s not a black and white issue, no matter how it’s portrayed in the media. *steps off soapbox*

I think Gaby, Lost and Found is great for readers in third grade on up, and I plan to recommend it to many of my students when I return to school next month. Even though it didn’t quite end the way I wanted it to, this book demonstrates the resilience of one young girl and shows readers that they can find happiness even when things don’t go their way.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has been on my radar for a few months, and I finally made time to read it this week. (I actually devoured it in less than 24 hours.) This wonderful book by Jenny Han introduces readers to Lara Jean Song Covey, a somewhat fanciful sixteen-year-old girl who gets over her crushes by writing them letters. She writes the letters and then moves on with her life. But when the letters actually get sent, Lara Jean’s life gets kind of complicated…

Lara Jean is a devoted sister, a loyal friend, and a reliable daughter. She’s not much of a rule-breaker, she doesn’t go to many parties, and she’s kind of invisible at school…and she mostly likes it that way.

Lara Jean does have some secrets, though–secrets those closest to her know nothing about. Lara Jean has had five crushes in her life. In order to move past these crushes, she writes each boy a letter, addresses it, and places it in an old hat box under her bed. No one knows about these letters except Lara Jean, and she has no intention of every mailing the letters…especially since one of them is written to her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh.

One day, Lara Jean realizes that the hat box under her bed is missing, and the letters she’s written to her crushes have actually been mailed out. When she understands what’s happened, Lara Jean panics and worries about what all of this could mean for her. A couple of her former crushes are no longer around, so she’s not terribly concerned about them…but some of them confront her about what she wrote, and that’s where things get a little messy.

In order to save face around Josh, Lara Jean devises a plan to make him think that she’s totally over whatever feelings she may have once had for him. She conspires with Peter, also one of her former crushes, to make everyone think that they’re now together. It’s a win-win situation, really. Lara Jean can avoid a big confrontation with Josh, and Peter can make his ex-girlfriend jealous. What neither Lara Jean nor Peter count on, however, is how this fake relationship will affect both themselves and those around them.

Lara Jean is growing closer to Peter, and she’s beginning to wonder if maybe he has some feelings for her. What started as a fake relationship may quickly be evolving into something real. Does Peter actually care about her, or is he still just using her to make his ex jealous? Does Peter, who knows the whole story of the letters, believe she still has feelings for Josh? How does Margot, Lara Jean’s beloved older sister and Josh’s ex-girlfriend, figure into this mix?

Lara Jean will soon have to face the realities of all of her relationships–those with Peter, Josh, and her sisters. What will she do once everyone knows the truth? We’ll just have to see…

_______________

I found To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before to be a fast, fun read that definitely gripped me and wouldn’t let go. Even though I thought Lara Jean’s voice was a tad grating at times, I felt that her character was realistic. It’s a nice change from all of the rule-breaking party girls in a lot of contemporary YA. Teens who respect their parents, like to stay in at night, and follow rules need to see themselves in fictional characters, too, and I was happy to see such a character in this story…even though she did play fast and loose with the truth from time to time. (Even us good girls can relate to that, though.)

I do have to admit that the end of this book nearly sent me into a panic. I kept glancing at the page count at the bottom of my ereader and wondering how in the world I was going to get a happy ending with so few pages remaining. And, while the ending was somewhat satisfying, it did leave things kind of open…which makes sense when one realizes there’s already a sequel.

The next book featuring Lara Jean and company, P.S. I Still Love You, is already out, and it is near the top of my lengthy TBR list. I can hardly wait to see what happens with Lara Jean and Peter.

For those wondering if To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before would be a good fit for middle school library collections, I’d have to say that it may be okay for upper middle school. There is some language, alcohol use, and talk of sexual situations, but there is nothing terribly graphic. In truth, Lara Jean could actually serve as something of a role model for some readers. She sees a lot of this stuff going on around her, and while she does feel some pressure to fit in, she remains true to herself and her values. Do with that what you will.

If you think To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before sounds like the book for you, I encourage you to learn more about in on Goodreads or the author’s website. You can also connect with Jenny Han through Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Enjoy!

All the Answers

I’m a world-class worrier. I can obsess over the smallest thing and make it into a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. This has been a skill of mine for years (and still drives my mother crazy). I have to force myself to stay away from things like WebMD because a cough is never just a simple cough. In my head, it’s always much, much worse.

No one–including myself sometimes–really understands why I worry so much, so it’s often refreshing for me when I encounter someone–real or fictional–who “gets it.” A couple of days ago, I finished reading a book about a character who definitely “gets it.” In fact, she may worry more than I do. The book is All the Answers by the always entertaining Kate Messner, and the character is young Ava Anderson.

Ava Anderson knows what it means to be anxious. She worries about everything. She panics before every test, and this morning is no different. She’s got a big math test today, and Ava knows she’s going to flub her way through it. She knows the material, but when tests roll around, Ava’s anxiety always gets the best of her. This morning, however, is going to be a little different…

It looks like an ordinary pencil, the kind someone would pick up at a conference or something, but this one turns out to be very different. When Ava grabs it out of her parents’ junk drawer, she has no way of knowing that this pencil is going to change her life.

Ava uses the pencil during her dreaded math test, and, wonder of wonders, when she presents questions to this strange pencil, it gives her the answers! For the first time in forever, Ava feels great about how she performed on a test. But does this magical pencil only work on math questions? Well, Ava and her best friend Sophie are about to find out…

Ava and Sophie soon realize that the special pencil will only answer factual questions, and it won’t answer anything with free will involved. The girls decide to use their new “power” to get some important information. For instance, which boys at school have a crush on Sophie? (This information leads to some rather sticky situations, as you can imagine.) They also use the pencil to figure out what would make Ava’s grandfather and his friends at the nursing home truly happy.

One day, though, Ava asks the pencil a question, and the answer rocks the girl’s entire world. This information has the power to change Ava’s entire family, and Ava can’t stop herself from worrying about what it could mean. Is Ava strong enough to handle what is coming, or will panic take over?

As Ava deals with everything revealed by this mysterious pencil, she begins to wonder if having all the answers is really so important. Does knowing so much make things better, or does it give people even more to obsess over? Can Ava put her worries–and her pencil–aside and finally trust in her own strength? And will that strength get her through the tough times ahead?

For the answers to these questions and many more, read All the Answers by Kate Messner.

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All the Answers, which will be released on January 27th, is a definite purchase for any libraries serving upper elementary and middle grade readers. Many readers will surely identify with Ava’s test anxiety and her worries about navigating the perils of school, friends, and new experiences.

While being a thoroughly entertaining (and totally relatable) book, All the Answers also delivers an important message. Having all the answers may sound awesome, but it’s not the most important thing in life. Yes, a magical pencil like the one in this book may sound appealing, but it could also be a crutch, something that one learns to rely on instead of developing his/her own inner confidence, strength, and faith. (This was really brought home for Ava when she discovered her grandfather’s history with the pencil. It definitely opened her eyes a bit.) There’s nothing out there that can magically erase anxieties, but, like Ava discovered, there are some strategies that can make it easier to deal with.

As I wrap up this post, I’d like to thank NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read another book that I’ll be adding to my school library as soon as it’s released. I’d also like to send my heart-felt gratitude to author Kate Messner for writing another story that so many students will enjoy. I wish I’d had a story like this when I was younger. It would have helped so much to read about a girl who worried about stuff like I did.

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Happy holidays to all of my friends out there! Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts about books this year, and I hope you’ll follow me into next year. I’ll be taking the next couple of days off to bake and spend time with my family, but I’m always reading and looking for more awesome books to share with all of you. So…merry Christmas, a happy Hanukkah, a wonderful winter solstice, and a fun Festivus for the rest of us! (And if you choose not to celebrate any winter holidays, I hope you have an excellent time as well!) Happy reading!