Angels Twice Descending

If you are not totally caught up with all things Shadowhunter, go no further. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, that should tell you something. Stop right now, go to your nearest library or bookstore, and read everything Cassandra Clare has ever written. Start with City of Bones.)

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s proceed, shall we?

Last night, I read Angels Twice Descending, the tenth and final installment in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy, a collection of short stories centered on Simon Lewis, his struggle to restore his memories, and his journey toward becoming a Shadowhunter. This last novella focuses on Simon’s Ascension, and, while I was expecting something big to happen, I wasn’t totally prepared for how hard it would hit me. (After reading so many of these stories, one would think I’d know better. One would be wrong.)

Simon and his fellow Academy students are getting ready to finally enter the world of the Nephilim. For mundanes like Simon, this means going through the Ascension ceremony and drinking from the Mortal Cup. After two years of grueling work, it should be a no-brainer on whether or not to go through with this final step…except for the whole “drinking from the cup could kill you” thing.

After one of the mundane students decides not to Ascend, Simon is forced to reflect on his own feelings. Does he truly want to become a Shadowhunter? Who is he doing all this for? Will he get his memories back once he Ascends? If he does, what could that mean for the person he is now? How will he deal with never seeing his mom or sister again? And what if the worst happens? What if he doesn’t have what it takes to be a Shadowhunter and drinking from the Mortal Cup destroys him?

In the end, Simon follows his heart and decides to become a Shadowhunter. But the Ascension ceremony is not without its heartbreak. One of the Academy students does not survive the process, and Simon is once again faced with the question, “Is it worth it?”


I can’t go any further here without some major spoilers. (I already feel like I’ve written too much.) It’s enough to say that I cried…a lot.

Now that we have all ten of the Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy stories, we also have the full picture formed by the covers. Check it out:

shadowhunter academy

As for when the entire volume of stories will be released in print, I’m not sure. From what I’ve heard, it will be sometime in 2016.

So, where do we go from here?

The next Shadowhunter story is the full-length novel Lady Midnight, due out on March 8th. This begins the Dark Artifices storyline and centers on Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs at the Los Angeles Institute. We also have the new TV series to look forward to, and that starts on Freeform (aka ABC Family) on January 12th.

If you, like me, still want more Shadowhunter goodness, click here for the official TV series website and here for the novels’ website.


Published in: on November 19, 2015 at 11:05 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Because of Winn-Dixie

Full disclosure: As much as I enjoy the works of Kate DiCamillo, I read Because of Winn-Dixie against my will. I did not want to read it. I am not one to pick up a “dog book” if I don’t have to. My friend’s nagging, however, was more than my meager willpower could handle, so I sat down to read this book Sunday night. Two hours later, I was finished with the book, and I reluctantly admitted that Because of Winn-Dixie was a sweet, heart-warming story. I’m glad I took the time to read it, and I now see what all of the fuss was about.

Opal Buloni doesn’t expect to become a dog-owner when she steps into her new town’s grocery store that fateful day. But that’s just what happens. She takes one look at the big, smiling, rough-around-the-edges dog and knows that she has to take him home…and save him from the angry grocery store manager. And so Winn-Dixie, a dog named after a supermarket, comes into Opal’s life and begins to change her world.

Opal isn’t sure how her father is going to feel about Winn-Dixie, but it doesn’t take long for the dog’s smile and gentle presence to do its work. The whole town feels it. This dog leads Opal to make unlikely friends, including the town librarian, a five-year-old who thinks all parties should have a theme, an ex-con who works in the pet store and has a special way with music, and a nearly blind woman who some in town believe to be a witch.

Through it all, Opal grows closer to the people in her new town…even some she made snap judgments about in the beginning. She also begins to learn more about her own mother, a woman who Opal never really got the chance to know. She becomes a more understanding, compassionate, and caring person.

And all because of Winn-Dixie.


So, yeah…I liked this book even though I really resisted reading it in the first place. I guess that’ll teach me to judge a book by its dog.

I think Because of Winn-Dixie is wonderful if you’re looking for a book that emphasizes things like empathy, friendship (especially those that are rather unlikely), and even forgiveness. It takes a gentle look at all of these things without being too preachy…which is kind of cool since Opal’s dad is actually a preacher.

Because of Winn-Dixie is a great read for any age level. It’s a good read-aloud for younger grades, and kids in upper elementary grades on up will find it to be a quick yet powerful book that will stay with them for years to come.

If you’d like to learn more about Because of Winn-Dixie and other books by the amazing Kate DiCamillo, check out her website.

Happy reading!

Published in: on November 10, 2015 at 7:58 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , ,

Fish in a Tree

Every once in a while, I come across a book that I think all of my fellow educators should read…and possibly read aloud to their students. Wonder by R.J. Palacio and Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea are two such books. Well, I now have another to add to the list: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

The title for this book comes from a famous quote (often attributed to Albert Einstein): “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The main character in Fish in a Tree, Ally, believes that she is stupid, and those around her–her fellow classmates and even her teachers–don’t do much to make her believe otherwise.

Ally Nickerson has a lot of trouble reading, and she usually covers up her problem by making jokes and causing distractions (although she doesn’t always intend to be a troublemaker). Her latest blunder, though, gets her moved to a new teacher’s classroom.

Ally is sure that she can hide her reading difficulties from Mr. Daniels, but this guy is sharper than Ally’s previous teachers. He realizes rather quickly that Ally is having problems, but he doesn’t call her slow or stupid. Instead, he praises her for her artistic abilities and lets her know that it’s okay that her brain sees words a little differently. After all, everyone is unique and learns in their own special ways.

With Mr. Daniels’ help and the support of two very special friends, Ally begins to have confidence in herself for the first time. She may not be the best reader in the world, but she’s working on it. In the meantime, she’s learning to stand up for herself and her friends and appreciate all of the great things in her life.

Ally and her friends are realizing that being different isn’t a bad thing. Differences keep things interesting. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out?”


Fish in a Tree is an amazing book that should be shared with all students (and teachers) in upper elementary and middle grades. It’s wonderful for anyone who’s ever felt like an outcast, especially those students who may struggle with dyslexia (the source of Ally’s frustrations with reading).

This book is also great for anyone who has ever had to deal with a bully. Ally and her friends have daily run-ins with mean girls and others who ridicule them, but they learn that their friendship is stronger than anything. They also realize that kindness goes a long way in changing things for the better…and this is a lesson everyone could stand to learn.

In closing, I cannot say enough good things about Fish in a Tree. I will be recommending it for my next faculty book club selection and encouraging everyone I know to give it a read. It’s excellent.

If you’d like more information on Fish in a Tree, visit author Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s website. You can also connect with the author on Twitter and view the awesome book trailer below. I hope you all enjoy this book as much as I did!

Published in: on November 3, 2015 at 9:44 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , ,

Saint Anything

This next statement may shock some of you. Until a few days ago, I had never read a Sarah Dessen book. I know, I know. It’s a true scandal for someone who loves YA literature as much as I do. The good news is that I have remedied that situation, and I’m now prepared to read everything that Dessen has ever written. Her newest book, Saint Anything, is outstanding, and if her other books are in any way comparable, I’m already hooked.

In Saint Anything, we meet Sydney, a girl dealing with the fallout of her brother Peyton’s mistakes. Several months ago, Peyton, after claiming that he was finally going to get his act together, had a few drinks at a party and proceeded to get behind the wheel of a car. On his way home, Peyton hit a kid named David Ibarra, paralyzing him for life.

Now, Peyton is in prison, and Sydney is left to deal with her guilt and shame over her brother’s actions. And with all of her parents’ focus on Peyton and his issues, Sydney wonders if they really see her. Even her decision to transfer to public school doesn’t seem to faze them. (They don’t appear to realize that Sydney’s decision was based partly on the financial burdens created by Peyton’s actions.) She’s invisible in her own home.

At first, Sydney feels invisible at her new school as well, but that changes rather quickly. When Sydney encounters the Chatham family, she feels like she’s finally seen.

The Chathams are a close-knit family with their own share of issues. The family owns a local pizza parlor, and, almost immediately, they treat Sydney as one of their own. Layla soon becomes Sydney’s closest friend. Layla has no luck with guys, but she’s always searching for the one who will be true to her. (Also, she has a weird obsession with fries.) Then there’s Rosie, a recovering addict who is trying to get her figure skating career back on track. Mr. Chatham runs the pizza parlor and plays in a bluegrass band in his spare time. Mrs. Chatham struggles with multiple sclerosis, but that doesn’t stop her from keeping her entire family in line. And then there’s Mac…

Mac is Layla’s older brother, and Sydney is drawn to his quiet, protective nature. Even though she knows it could damage her friendship with Layla, Sydney can’t seem to help growing closer to Mac…and he feels the same way. Sydney finally feels like there’s someone who really gets her, and she won’t let go of that without a fight.

After an argument with Peyton and discovering Sydney breaking a couple of rules, Sydney’s parents finally turn their attention to their daughter. (I say “they,” but I really mean “her mother.” She leads, and Sydney’s dad sort of follows along.) They don’t want her to go down the same path that Peyton did, and they seem to think that the Chathams have something to do with what they perceive as changes in their daughter’s behavior. (They don’t see their own lack of attention as a problem, in my opinion.) They tighten the reins on Sydney, talk about transferring schools, and basically try to keep Sydney away from anything that could be a “bad influence.” What they don’t realize is that the true danger to their daughter has been right under their noses all along.

Sydney knows her parents are being unreasonable, but she doesn’t know how to convince them that a couple of mistakes do not mean she’s headed for trouble. She’s tired of being punished for Peyton’s actions, and she’s unwilling to let go of the relationships that have come to mean so much to her. What can she do to make her parents finally see her? Can Sydney reconcile her own feelings about her brother while helping her parents to see her for herself? And how will her closeness with the Chatham family help–or hinder–her efforts? Discover the answers to these questions and many more when you read Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen.


I adored this book. The characters were wholly relatable, and I honestly felt like the Chathams made me a member of their family as I was reading. I was charmed by that entire family, particularly Layla, Mac, and Mrs. Chatham. This family was a beautiful example of how a family should come together in tough times. That provided a perfect counterpoint to Sydney’s own family.

Sydney’s parents, blinded by the experiences with their son, were exasperating. At several points during the book, I wanted to reach through the pages and smack Sydney’s mom. (I’m sure I’m not alone in this.) I know she was dealing with a hard situation the only way she knew how, but it was still frustrating to read, and Sydney’s dad didn’t really help matters. When he was around, he meekly followed along with whatever his wife wanted, even though it was clear that he often disagreed with her. Neither of them paid enough attention to their daughter…until something happened that forced them to.

Saint Anything, which I think is suitable for both middle grade and teen readers, is a wonderful book about a girl discovering herself and what it truly means to be part of a family. The Chathams provide her with the love and attention she’s craved, but they also show her that every family experiences difficulties. Those connections help Sydney cope with what is happening at home. In her own family, Sydney comes to realize that her perceptions, of her brother and her parents, may not always reflect what’s really going on.

I hope you enjoy Saint Anything as much as I did. If you’d like to learn more about it and author Sarah Dessen, click here. You may also want to connect with the lovely Ms. Dessen on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Goodreads, and Pinterest.

As for me, I’m now going to add every other Sarah Dessen book to my already staggering TBR pile. Wish me luck!

The Fiery Trial

I’m tired of giving spoiler alerts before these Shadowhunter Academy posts. Do what you will.

It’s time, once again, to discuss Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. The latest installment, The Fiery Trial, was released on Tuesday, and I finally have enough energy to share my thoughts. (I actually did read the story on Tuesday, but I didn’t get around to posting on it until today. It’s been a trying week.)

As usual, I enjoyed learning more about Simon’s perception of the Shadowhunter world, and, even more, I loved seeing glimpses of what we might encounter in the next full-length Shadowhunter novel, Lady Midnight. Special appearances by Magnus Bane and Jem Carstairs didn’t hurt, either.

The Fiery Trial continues Simon’s journey through the Shadowhunter Academy. He’s nearing the end of his second year, and he’s thinking of the whole parabatai thing. Two of his classmates have already decided to form this nearly unbreakable bond, and Simon wonders if it is even a possibility for him.

Luckily (depending on one’s point of view), Simon is still eligible to form the parabatai bond, and Clary is his obvious choice. Even with his memory loss, Simon realizes that he and Clary have something special, a relationship that goes beyond that of best friends. They are family, and they’d do anything for each other. Well, that love is soon put to the test.

Unbeknownst to both Simon and Clary, a few familiar characters–Magnus Bane, Jem Carstairs, and Catarina Loss–are about to lead them through a trial of sorts, to see if they are truly suited to be parabatai.

This strange test precedes Simon and Clary serving as witnesses for the parabatai ceremony, or Fiery Trial, of Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs. After his own recent ordeal, Simon looks for signs that Julian and Emma are as close as he and Clary. They are, but…something is a little off. Does it have anything to do with the recent tragedies the two young Shadowhunters have endured? Or could it be something else? And what could it mean for their new parabatai bond?


If you, like me, have been wondering when/if Simon will get all of his memories back, I think The Fiery Trial offers a little more hope than some of the previous stories. Simon may not always know what some of his glimpses into the past may mean, but, in this story at least, he’s showing signs of understanding. And he’s working harder to really remember. (Clary and Jace help with this a bit.) You’ll know what I mean when you read this story, particularly the “test” Simon and Clary are subjected to.

So, The Fiery Trial is the eighth story in Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy. That means we only have two more to go, and I’m honestly not ready for the end. The next story, Born to Endless Night, will be out on October 20th, and it should revolve around Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. (Woohoo! Love me some Malec!) The tenth and final story, Angels Twice Descending, out on November 17th, is the tale of Simon’s Ascension. I’ve already got goosebumps over this one, and it’s nearly two months away.

When this collection of stories comes to an end, we’ve only got a short-ish wait for Lady Midnight, book one of The Dark Artifices, which really delves into Emma’s and Julian’s stories in the larger Shadowhunter world. This highly anticipated book will be out on March 8th, 2016.

For more information on this collection and all things Shadowhunter, click here. Have fun out there.

Published in: on September 24, 2015 at 2:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Girl from Felony Bay

So, I’ve been struggling to finish the last of this year’s South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees. For whatever reason, it’s taken me longer to finish the twenty nominated books than ever before. (I think the abundance of animal books may be to blame.)

Well, last night, I finished another SCCBA nominee (only one more to go!), and this one was probably one of the best of this year’s list. The book was The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson. Even though the book was nearly 400 pages long, I devoured it in less than twenty-four hours. It was excellent.

Abbey Force has had a rough time of it lately. Her father is in a coma and can’t defend himself against some fairly awful accusations. Her beautiful home, Reward Plantation in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, had to be sold to pay off her dad’s supposed debts. And Abbey had to move in with her horrible Uncle Charlie and his wife, Ruth.

But it’s not all bad…

Abbey soon meets the daughter of Reward Plantation’s new owner. Bee Force (no relation) is Abbey’s age, and their families have a connection that goes back to before the Civil War. It appears that Abbey’s ancestors kept Bee’s ancestors as slaves, and Bee’s family took on Force as their last name after the war was over. Even though their family stories could have driven a wedge between these two girls, instead it brings them closer together, and they soon become as close as sisters…and they’ll need that closeness to weather the storm that’s headed their way.

Abbey is determined to prove to everyone that her father is innocent, and Bee wants to help her new friend. It quickly becomes clear that the two girls are on to something, but what? Why are there “No trespassing” signs and big holes around Felony Bay? Why was this parcel of land sold separately from Reward Plantation? Why is Uncle Charlie so smug all of a sudden, and what does the Deputy Sheriff have to do with his new attitude? What’s the connection with Abbey’s dad and the accusations made against him? Can two twelve-year-old girls really prove that something sinister is going on?

Abbey and Bee are working to solve this mystery, and their investigation takes them all over Charleston and Reward Plantation. Danger abounds, and the girls eventually uncover a plot that dates back over a century. Can they reveal the truth before it’s too late? Or will all of their sleuthing make them the next target of whoever is trying to frame Abbey’s dad?

Join Abbey and Bee Force in their quest for the truth when you read The Girl from Felony Bay by J.E. Thompson!


I’m sure the South Carolina connection had a little to do with why I enjoyed this book so much. More than that, though, was the excellent, compelling story. I was eager to turn each page and find out what Abbey and Bee were going to get into next. I can only hope my students feel the same way (especially since this book is also one of our Battle of the Books titles this year). Rest assured, I will talk The Girl from Felony Bay up at every opportunity.

In addition to being a great example of a mystery, The Girl from Felony Bay could also serve as a mentor text for studies on figurative language. J.E. Thompson, like many other Southern writers, doesn’t just tell the reader what something looks or feels like. He paints a picture, and he uses vivid, descriptive language to do it. The similes, metaphors, hyperbole, and other literary tools in this book are great examples that students may want to employ in their own writing.

I wish I had more time to extoll all of the virtues of this book, but I’m late for supper at my mom’s house, so I’ll wrap it up. Read this book. Share this book with your students. I recommend it to all readers in upper elementary and middle grades, but I think it’s a mystery that readers of all ages can and will enjoy.

And that’s not all, folks!

If you want more of Abbey and Bee, there’s another Felony Bay book out there. Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff follows these two girls into another mystery. I’ll be ordering this book for my school library as soon as I return to work tomorrow.

For even more information on The Girl from Felony Bay, Disappearance at Hangman’s Bluff, and author J.E. Thompson, I invite you to visit the author’s website. Happy reading!

Published in: on September 7, 2015 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine

Given that school starts this week and I still have 795, 463 things to do, I’ll endeavor to keep this post short. Here goes…

If you or any teen readers you know like Sherlock, then you definitely need to give Trouble Is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly a try. If Sherlock Holmes were a 16-year-old American boy, he would be Digby…and awesome. In this highly entertaining book, Zoe (a teen girl version of Watson) encounters Digby after moving to a new area, and life as she knows it is about to get a lot more interesting.

Zoe Webster is just biding her time. All she really wants to do is transfer to the elite Prentiss Academy and get out of this new town, but she’s got to deal with her present circumstances first. A clueless mom, a new school, and no friends.

Well, the “no friends” thing may be easier to change than Zoe thinks. One day, a weird kid named Digby shows up at her door and basically informs Zoe that they’re going to be friends. Almost against Zoe’s will, Digby is right. Even when it leads her directly into the path of trouble, Zoe follows Digby into odd and often dangerous situations, but this strange and brilliant young man usually manages to talk their way out of nearly anything.

Digby and Zoe, along with a couple other colorful characters, manage to find themselves involved in a mystery that includes drugs, kidnapping, cults, attempted murder, and more mayhem than they ever could have expected. (Well, Digby may have expected some of it. Not much gets by him.) They’ll have to break every rule on the books–and some laws of common sense–in their attempt to uncover what’s really going on.

But why is Digby so invested in this stuff? And why does he insist on bringing Zoe along? Is Digby just a manic genius, or is something more going on? Read Trouble Is a Friend of Mine to find out.


After reading Trouble Is a Friend of Mine, I must say that Digby is one of the most entertaining, charming characters I’ve encountered lately. He really keeps this book going simply because the reader never knows what he’s going to do or say next.

The parallels between Digby and Sherlock Holmes (as played by the delightful Benedict Cumberbatch) are unmistakable and wonderful. Digby has his own version of the Homeless Network, he bends the rules to get answers, he works with law enforcement (when it suits him), and he observes every little detail around him.

Zoe, for her part, is something of a stabilizing force for Digby, much like Dr. John Watson. Yes, she follows him into danger, but she also, in my opinion, keeps him grounded and lets him know that she’ll be his backup. Through the course of their friendship, both Zoe and Digby learn more about themselves, who they can really count on, and just how important their relationship is.

At various points, I think this story wanted to be a romance between Digby and Zoe. It didn’t quite happen, but I can see how it might if there were a sequel. (If there is one on the works, I haven’t heard about it yet.) Part of me wants Digby and Zoe to get together, but a bigger part wants them to be “just friends.” There are too many books out there that force a romantic relationship between two characters, and it would be nice to see a story–or series of stories–where male and female characters can keep things platonic. It would be refreshing, to say the least, and these two characters simply don’t need to hook up to continue being their hilarious, charming selves.

Trouble Is a Friend of Mine was released on August 4th, so it’s available wherever books are sold. I highly recommend it to any library serving teens (or older readers) who love Sherlock.

If you’d like more information on this excellent book, you can connect with author Stephanie Tromly on Twitter. As far as I can tell, Trouble Is a Friend of Mine is her first book. I sincerely hope this is only the beginning.

Published in: on August 16, 2015 at 3:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Never Always Sometimes

Yesterday, I finished reading Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid. (You may recognize the name from his previous book, Let’s Get Lost.) Anyway, this latest book, which comes out next Tuesday, is sort of a coming of age story that John Green fans will probably eat up. In fact, at various points, this book reminded me a bit of Paper Towns. If you’re a Nerdfighter, that’s probably all the recommendation you need.

In Never Always Sometimes, readers are introduced to Dave and Julia, best friends who have done their best to avoid becoming high school clichés. Before they even darkened the doors of high school, Dave and Julia made a Nevers List, a list of things they vowed never to do during their time in high school. Some of the items were:

  • #2 – Never run for prom king/queen, student body president, or any other position that would have its own page in the yearbook.
  • #5 – Never dye your hair a color found in the rainbow.
  • #8 – Never pine silently after someone for the entirety of high school.
  • #10 – Never date your best friend.

Now, almost four years later, just months before graduation, Dave and Julia have done a fairly good job of sticking to their Nevers List. Or so it seems.

Dave, for his part, has been in love with Julia for what seems like forever–breaking Never #8–but he keeps his feelings a secret so that he won’t ruin his relationship with his best friend.

One day, thinking she and Dave are missing out on the authentic high school experience, Julia suggests that they use the time before graduation to cross off every Never on their list. As is usually the case, Dave goes along with Julia’s crazy idea, and pretty soon, the two are dying their hair (and Dave is shaving his shortly thereafter), stalking a teacher, running a campaign for prom king, going to wild parties, and doing all the other things they’ve been disdainful of all this time.

Through all of this, Dave starts to realize that maybe he really has been missing out. This typical teenage stuff isn’t so bad, and it’s even pushing him to be social with people–girls–other than Julia. One girl in particular, Gretchen, catches his eye, and Dave begins to think that, as much as he still loves Julia, maybe he should let that hopeless crush go and move on.

What Dave doesn’t know (yet) is that Julia is coming to her own realizations. Maybe she too wants something more from her best friend, the guy who knows her better than anyone else. Maybe they should finally cross of Never #10 and see what happens. What could possibly go wrong?


How do I feel about Never Always Sometimes now that I’ve finished it and reflected a bit? Well, I’m still not sure. I think it’s a good book, maybe a tad unrealistic, but I kind of wanted to punch the main characters in the face several times when I was reading. Especially Julia. (I guess it’s good that I got so emotionally invested.) She seemed so self-centered to me throughout most of the book, and she tended to drag Dave down with her. Granted, he went–if somewhat unwillingly–most of the time, but I wanted both of them to wake up and see just how codependent they were.

As for the ending of the book, it took some doing, but it was sort of satisfying. I wouldn’t exactly call it happy, but given the events that preceded it, it really couldn’t be a totally happy ending for everyone. If anything, I would say that it was fitting and leave it at that.

For those wondering if Never Always Sometimes is suitable for middle grade readers, I would advise against it. It’s great for a YA audience, but the “sexy times” and rather unrepentant alcohol use and rule-breaking make the book much more suited to older teens. Whatever the reader’s age, I’d hope that all of them would have sense enough to know that some of the items on the Nevers List–like “never hook up with a teacher”–should remain Nevers.

As I said previously, Never Always Sometimes will be released to the masses on August 4th. (Many thanks to NetGalley for letting me read it a bit early.) If you’re interested in learning more about this book and author Adi Alsaid, you can connect with the author on Goodreads and Twitter. You may also want to take a look at the book trailer below. It’s a pretty good intro to Never Always Sometimes, but it doesn’t give too much away.

Happy reading!

Published in: on July 28, 2015 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

Rules for Ghosting

Greetings, dear readers. I realize it’s been a while since my last post, but I’m here now. (To be perfectly honest, I needed a bit of a break. And now my break is over…maybe.)

Anyway, I’m back today with another of the nominees for the 2015-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award. Today, we turn our focus to Rules for Ghosting by A.J. Paquette. This book, which is suitable for upper elementary and middle grade readers, is a ghost story, but there’s nothing truly scary about it. The ghosts in the book are friendly, and the villain of the piece is human. At various points, Rules for Ghosting reminded me of Casper, Beetlejuice, and Ghostbusters. That may be the hook I use to get my students interested in this book.

Silverton Manor is the only home Dahlia has ever known. Her family has lived there for generations, and she’s been there for quite some time. Dahlia died at Silverton Manor over fifty years ago…and she never left. Now, she’s the resident ghost of her family home, but her “life” is a rather lonely one. She can’t get past the boundary of the manor grounds, and there’s no one at Silverton Manor–living or dead–to talk to…yet.

All of a sudden, things are changing at Silverton Manor, and Dahlia is lonely no more…

Mrs. Tibbs arrives on the scene to liberate Dahlia. She’s here to help Dahlia find the object, or anchor, that holds her to Silverton Manor, as well as teach the young girl all of the rules for ghosting. Mrs. Tibbs is rather impressed with all that Dahlia has learned on her own, but there’s still much work to do. If only they weren’t also trying to keep an eye on the house’s newest residents…

Oliver Day wants a permanent home. He’s tired of traveling from town to town with his family, and he’s decided that Silverton Manor, the house his parents have been hired to get sale-ready, is destined to be his house. But strange things are going on in this old house, and Oliver doesn’t know what to make of them. Surely there’s a reasonable explanation here. This house couldn’t be haunted. Could it?

According to Ghosterminator Rank T. Wiley, Silverton Manor is indeed haunted, and he’s just the guy to rid the house of its pesky ghost problem. This nefarious ghost hunter will stop at nothing to nab an unsuspecting ghost and make a name for himself. And no meddling kid is going to interfere with his grand plans…

As soon as Oliver learns of Rank T. Wiley’s true reason for being at the house, he becomes determined to stop this horrible man from succeeding in his quest…especially when Oliver realizes that the ghost of Silverton Manor is a friendly girl. Oliver and Dahlia stumble upon a way to communicate, and they work together to rid the house of its true pest while trying to uncover all of the secrets hidden within the mysterious Silverton Manor.

Can Oliver and Dahlia stop Rank T. Wiley before something truly horrible happens? Can Dahlia ever find her anchor and be free of the boundary that holds her to Silverton Manor? And can Oliver figure out a way to stay in the house that has come to mean so much to him? Answer these questions and many more when you read Rules for Ghosting by A.J. Paquette.


In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that it was very difficult for me to get into this book. I really wanted to be invested in it, but it just wasn’t happening…which may explain why it took about four weeks for me to get through it.

That being said, I do think many of my students will like it. It’s a ghost story, but it’s not too scary, so I have no problem recommending it to any readers in third grade and up. It’s got colorful characters, a couple of mysteries to solve, and an interesting setting. There’s also a fair amount of rule-breaking and working around clueless adults, something most young readers will identify with and/or root for.

So…while Rules for Ghosting is not my favorite of this year’s SCCBA nominees, I predict it will be a hit with young readers. I look forward to their thoughts on what happens with Oliver and Dahlia after this story ends.

For more information on Rules for Ghosting and other books by A.J. Paquette, check out the author’s website. Happy reading!

Published in: on July 20, 2015 at 4:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 260 other followers