Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells was inspired by a 200-word fragment written by Willie Lincoln about a trip he took with his father, Abe Lincoln. Wells was doing research for another novel when she read the brief piece and it inspired the writing of Lincoln and His Boys.

Written in the viewpoint of Wilie, Tad and Willie, and then Tad, this is a gem of a book. A small volume at less than 100 pages, it perfect to hand to some of my more dormant readers. Especially those who have no interest in historical fiction. Wells presents a look at Lincoln as a father through the eyes of his adoring sons. The only politics they are interested in is war and getting attention from their father. I think boys will especially connect with Tad and Willie because they are rambunctious boys who burst into cabinet meetings and sweep the papers off the table. They build a fort on the roof of the White House to hold off the south. And Lincoln is an indulgent father who allows them to act crazy and have fun.

Readers also see the deep relationship between the boys and their parents. I loved seeing the little acts of kindness between them. The book is entirely grounded in fact and none of the actions are fictionalized. Just the dialogue and certain details have been imagined.

Lincoln and His Boys is a quick read that I would not hesitate to hand to some of my dormant/struggling readers. The text is at a 4th grade level (or so) and includes illustrations, but even I learned some new facts about Lincoln from the story! I think this would make a great book to ease kids into historical fiction.

 

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher.  Cybils nominee

The Last Invisible Boy by Evan Kuhlman

Finn Garret is slowly becoming invisible.  Ever since his dad died on a flight home, Finn’s been turning whiter and whiter.  He figures that soon he will disappear all together.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first picked up The Last Invisible Boy. An initial flip through the book gives the appearance of a Wimpy Kid read-alike.  However, within a few pages the reader knows they are dealing with a very different book here.  This is not a humorous, light-hearted book like many of the illustrated novels out there today.  And that’s a good thing.  Finn is telling his story, with his own illustrations, and his voice is spot-on for a twelve year old boy.  It’s bittersweet, angry at times, and will even bring tears to your eyes.

I loved the voice in this story.  Finn writes like most of my 6th graders.  He goes off on tangents at times, at others writes very dryly, and then WHAM!  Out of nowhere he hits you with an amazing and powerful few pages.

I really enjoyed this book and look forward to passing it on to some of my 6th graders.  I think it will appeal to boys and girls alike.

 

*Review copy courtesy of publisher

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Aubrey is alone, but no one can find out. She goes about her day pretending that her mother hasn’t abandoned her without warning.  She puts on disguises to go food shopping and doesn’t answer the phone.  Eleven years old, she is dealing with issues far beyond her young age.

The best word to describe Love, Aubrey is bittersweet. Aubrey’s father and younger sister died in a car crash and her mother shut down after losing them.  Now, she has left Aubrey without warning.  When Aubrey’s grandmother shows up and offers to take her back to Vermont to live, Aubrey isn’t sure she wants to go.  Starting over is never easy and life hasn’t been good to Aubrey lately.  But as she settles slowly into a new life, she gains a best friend and supportive family.  However, she still doesn’t know how to deal with her own grief and confusion.  Aubrey writes letters to an imaginary friend, keeping her close to her baby sister,Savannah, and helping her deal with her feelings. Supported by her grandmother, new friends and school counselor, Aubrey learns to move on and build a new life.  And when her mother comes back into her life, she is able to make the difficult choice presented to her- stay in Vermont or move back home with Mom in Virginia.

Love, Aubrey is a book I couldn’t put down.  It easily could have been overdone and miserable; instead, LaFleur has crafted a powerful story about grief and loss.  At times funny, heartbreaking, and poignant, Love, Aubrey is a phenomenal story.  I found myself racing through the book, stopping only wipe tears from my eyes or to get more tissues.  A perfect novel for middle grade readers, this is also a story adults and teens will enjoy.  I already have a handful of students who have read the book and all of them commented that they couldn’t put it down.  And they loved it as much as I did!

*Review copy courtesy of the publisher

Cybils!

You only have a few more days to nominate books for the Cybil Awards!  If you haven’t done so yet, make your way over to the nominating form and get going.

Not sure what the Cybils are?  Check this out from the Cybils website:

Our purpose is two-fold:

  • Reward the children’s and young adult authors (and illustrators, let’s not forget them) whose books combine the highest literary merit and “kid appeal.” What’s that mean? If some la-di-dah awards can be compared to brussel sprouts, and other, more populist ones to gummy bears, we’re thinking more like organic chicken nuggets. We’re yummy and nutritious.
  • Foster a sense of community among bloggers who write about children’s and YA literature, highlight our best reviewers (and shamelessly promote their blogs) and provide a forum for the similarly obsessed.

We wouldn’t be a real awards if we didn’t have a whole bunch of complicated rules in tortured lawyerese. So maybe we’re not a real awards, because there aren’t any lawyers and only two rules:

  1. You (and you can be anybody, even you) may nominate any book published in the contest year in English;
  2. Only one book per category. We have ways of checking this, so play nice. Nominations open Oct. 1 and close Oct. 15.

After that, here’s what happens:

  • We place all the authors names into a hat and pass our magic wand over it. After the rabbit pops out, we eat him and announce the winner, whom we have selected at random;
  • Not really! Just testing you. We have panelists in each category who eat the rabbit. No, er, they read the books. They have until January 1 for that, which we hope and pray will be enough time. On Jan. 1 we’ll post the finalists;
  • From Jan. 1 to mid-February, a second group of judges will read all the finalists and pick the winners, which we’ll announce on Valentine’s Day.

See? Easy. And no actual rabbits will be harmed in the process.

To contact us:

Anne Levy, Contest Administrator:
cybils09 (at) gmail (dot) com

Kelly Herold, Director (on hiatus for 2009-10 season):
kidslitinfo (at) gmail (dot) com

Dessert First by Hallie Durand

Hallie Durand’s Dessert First is an adorable early middle grade novel about a spunky third-grader named Dessert. Now, who among us hasn’t been tempted to eat dessert first when sitting down for a meal? When Dessert’s new teacher, Mrs. Howdy Doody tells her class to march to the beat of their own drummer, Dessert decides that she will eat dessert first from now on. She is even able to convince her family to join her in her new endeavor. But when she succumbs to temptation and secretly eats an entire box of her mother’s Double-decker Chocolate Bars, she is overcome with guilt. Even worse, it turns out that those rare treats were made to celebrate the life and birthday of her grandmother, who has passed away.

Dessert reminded me a lot of another fun early middle grade character- Clementine. She’s spunky, spirited, happy, and even a little “fresh” at times. Even better? She’s real! She reminded me a lot of the 3rd graders I student taught a few years ago- smarter than most adults give them credit for. Plus, readers will identify with her. Who among us hasn’t tried to be unique and only ended up getting in trouble in the process?

Oh, and I love, love, love the cover! The bakery string is a wonderful detail and has me craving some treats.

Highly recommended for elementary libraries.
*ARC copy courtesy of Kathi Appelt

Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Panel

I can finally share my exciting news!  It’s been killing me to stay quiet. ;)

I am thrilled to be a part of the Cybils for a second year in a row.  I will be a Round 1 Judge with some amazing other bloggers!

Panel Organizer: Kerry Millar, Shelf Elf

Panelists (Round I Judges):

Sherry Early, Semicolon
Melissa Fox, Book Nut
Abby Johnson, Abby the Librarian
Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader
Becky Laney, Becky’s Book Reviews
Sandra Stiles, Musings of a Book Addict

We will be reading and reviewing all of your nominations- have you made yours yet?

Then the Round 2 Judges will decide on the winner from our shortlist.  And we have some awesome and talented bloggers judging the final round!

Round II Judges:

Kimberly Baker, Wagging Tales

Kerry Millar, Shelf Elf
Stacy Dillon, Welcome to my Tweendom
Monica Edinger, Educating Alice
David Elzey, Excelsior File

I am so excited be a part of the Cybils again.  And my students can’t wait to read the books I review and help me with the kid appeal!

The Countdown Begins!

Tonight at midnight Pacific time (October 1) the nominations for the Cybils will open! If you haven’t checked out the website lately, you MUST go visit. There is an awesome new form this year to make nominating titles easier. No more sifting through pages of comments before nominating your choice.  Yay!  Plus, many of the categories have their panelists posted already and there area few more to come in the days ahead.

I’m getting ready to nominate my favorite titles….are you?

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