Invasion by Walter Dean Myers

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Genre: Historical fiction

Invasion is the story of Josiah Wedgewood, a young southern man who participates in the Allied D-Day invasion of France on Omaha Beach as a member of the 29th infantry. The story begins before the invasion and continues as Josiah and his fellow soldiers push through the French countryside toward St. Lo. Continue reading »

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The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

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Genre: Fantasy

Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal 

This is the book that beat out Wonder for 2013’s Newbery medal, and I can see why…if the Newbery Medal is the prize for the book that makes you cry the most. Geez Louise. I read it mostly in one sitting and had to stifle my sobs so my husband didn’t think I was nuts. Make sure you have a box of tissues nearby. Continue reading »

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Wonder by R.J. Palacio

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Genre: Realistic fiction

A 2013 ALA Notable Children’s Book (Middle Readers)

I was excited to read this book as it has gotten so much praise and good buzz, and I had it highly recommended by several trusted sources (thanks Michaela and Christina!) It did not disappoint.

Wonder is the story of Augustus, a fifth grader who enters school for the first time. Auggie was born with a severe facial deformity and has previously been home schooled due to ongoing medical issues. The story is told from several different points of view as Auggie completes his first year of school and covers the challenges and triumphs he encounters. Auggie’s story is one of friendship, loyalty, bullying, honesty, compassion, kindness, and courage in so many forms. I cried at the beginning, middle and end. I highly recommend it, for both adults and students – it would probably appeal most to students in grades 5-8. It is a bit long so would be best suited to strong readers in grades 5 and 6. This is also the first book I’ve reviewed that I believe would make an excellent addition to your curriculum as a major novel. It abounds with teachable moments and themes. It was one of the first books I reviewed that made me want to seek out more information about the author’s inspiration. Continue reading »

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The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

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Genre: Mystery/Supernatural

A 2013 Edgar Award Nominee 

The Edge of Nowhere is the first YA title from George, who is best known for her mystery novels featuring Inspector Lynley, which are now a BBC series. It centers around Hannah Armstrong, who immediately reinvents herself as Becca King in order to escape a murderous stepfather. The main plot point hear is that Becca can hear others’ thoughts – a trait she must keep hidden both to avoid detection from her stepfather and keep from bringing other conflicts upon herself. This becomes increasingly difficult as she is separated from her mother and left to fend for herself on Whidbey Island in the state of Washington. She finds help from a kind dog owner, a grandmotherly recovering alcoholic and the town delinquent, but finds herself once again at the center of the drama when a boy she has befriended is found wounded in the woods. Continue reading »

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Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Genre: Realistic Fiction

A 2013 Americas Book Award Commended Title

A 2013 ALA Notable Book for Children

I’m going to divide my review into two sections – one without spoilers, one with – because I can’t really say what I want to say without giving the end away.

No spoilers:

This book has been winning awards left and right and the author just won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, which is pretty prestigious. I know  it’s getting a lot of attention because it’s a young adult book about homosexuality – the only YA novel I know of that has this as a main plot point, although there are others? probably? just not as prominent? – but that kind of cheapens it. That’s the great part about it – it’s a book about discovering/coming to terms with being gay (yourself or a loved one) but it’s a complete story that’s about a lot of other things too. That’s just one of its topics, just like in life. Gay people are not one dimensional, and neither are these characters or this story. (I apologize if my language in this review is imprecise. I know some people say being gay is something they always know, while others have to discover it as they mature.) Continue reading »

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