Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell (author) & Shadra Strickland (illustrator)

Bibliographic Citation:
Powell, P. H. (2017). Loving vs. Virginia: A Documentary Novel of the Landmark Civil Rights Case. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books. 978-1452125909.

Synopsis:
In the 1950’s in Caroline County, Virginia, during a time of racism, prejudice, and injustice, Richard and Mildred fell in love. Their life together was against the law, but their determination to be a family whenever and wherever ended up changing it. Mr. and Mrs. Loving were the face of the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage. This documentary novel is this couple’s story of fighting discrimination and winning.

lovingvvirginiaCritical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love, and this book is very special to me. I’m in an interracial relationship that will (whenever we get around to it) evolve into an interracial marriage. At one point in history, loving the man I love would’ve been illegal just like it was for Richard and Milly. I experienced a range of emotions with this book as I tried to imagine what it would’ve been like if the law tried to keep me from Andrew. I couldn’t put this book down.

This book is still extremely relevant today because of the political climate and white nationalist movement that’s been taking place. This documentary novel is beautifully written in free verse, and alternates between Richard and Milly’s perspectives. It is evident that the author did her research through the interviews, photos, and news clippings. This is a must-have book in school and public libraries alike.

 

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The Girl I Used to Be by April Henry

Bibliographic Citation:
Henry, A. (2016). The Girl I Used to Be. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co. ISBN 978-1627793322.

april henry

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Olivia aka Ariel’s mother was murdered when she was almost too young to remember. Most people thought her father did it and then disappeared. Fast forward fourteen years when some new evidence now shows that her father and mother were likely killed at the same time. Now Olivia works to uncover the truth. But can she piece it together before the killer finds her?

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
If you know me, you know crime is my thing. Murder? Yep, I’m interested. Okay, that sounds weird but still true. I’m not sure how this book sucked me in, but it did. I read it pretty fast because curiosity and suspense were taking over. I really liked it too, and I’ve recommended it to several of my students who are fans of crime and mystery.

Olivia/Ariel is your average character. I didn’t think she was too far fetched in her actions usually, and if I was in a similar situation then I might’ve acted the same way she did. Sometimes I felt like she asked too many questions and was either making herself look suspicious or obvious, but nonetheless it made for a good story. I haven’t read any other April Henry novels — I know, I know — where have I been — but now I want to! One of my coworkers today said, “Something terrible always happens to a kid in all of her books!” So now I’m curious.

Read if you like: suspense, crime, murder, mystery

Awards and Honors:

  • The ILA (International Literacy Association’s) Choice List
  • Edgar Award finalist
  • Anthony Award finalist
  • South Dakota high school award finalist
  • The Texas Lone Star reading list
  • The Banks Street Best Books list
  • Winner, Oregon Spirit Book Award
  • Best books of 2016 by Multnomah County Library.

Author Info:

April Henry is a New York Times-bestselling author of 21 mysteries for teens and adults. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family.

Thornhill by Pam Smy

Bibliographic Citation:
Smy, P. (2017). Thornhill. New York, NY: Roaring Brook Press. ISBN 978-1626726543.

thornhill

(Image from Amazon.com)

Plot Summary:
Thornhill tells the story of two girls, Mary and Ella, in two different times. Their stories merge as Ella unravels the story of Thornhill’s dark past.

Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I honestly thought this book was weird. I like the way it was written though with Mary’s story told in journal entries and Ella’s told in pictures. However, I didn’t really like it. It was definitely suspenseful and hard to put down, but it was sad and isolating and left me with questions.

I’m not really sure what the point is of this book. Sure it talks about bullying and that’s such a buzzword these days, but its a pretty dark story line for the intended audience. I don’t really know what the author expected the reader to take away from this? I honestly don’t even know what the point was of this book. The format is pretty much it’s only redeeming quality. If you like suspense, check it out. It’s a quick read and you’ll be done in no time. You’ll also be glad you were done in no time. It’s a no go for me, to be frank. It’s a one or two star book in my opinion.

 

*Ahem* Is anyone there?

Hi everyone (anyone?),

I’ve been gone for like 7 or 8 months and I don’t even know where to start. 2017 has been one heck of a year for me, but I’m trying to pick up the pieces and figure things out. I’ll be back. I had big plans to read a lot of books that are going to be made into movies this year and I didn’t. Things have been tough. I’ve been a wreck. I’m working on it. Thanks for hanging in there.

See ya soon!
Ms. LaCaze

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

croaked_Bibliographic Citation:
Bragg, Georgia. (2012). How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA Children’s. 978-0802727947.

Synopsis: 
How They Croaked tells the story of how nineteen prominent figures in history died without sugarcoating anything.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Nonfiction is my first love. True crime came after that. As morbid and peculiar as it sounds, I love reading about death. How people died. What did it. Who did it. Where did it happen. I’m basically the Clue game of readers, so this book was right up my alley. More than that, I feel like I learned so much from this book. Am I the only person who didn’t know that C-Sections were named after Julius Caesar? Perhaps, but now I know. Am I the only one who didn’t know that President Garfield was assassinated but literally only died because people kept putting their germy hands in his wound? This book is seriously awesome. I learned all about Einstein’s brain being cut out and cut up during an unauthorized autopsy. Who wouldn’t want to read this book? I loved it. It’s a fast read, too. It is informative, gross, and creepy — it is everything a middle school kid wants in a book!

Nominations:

  • 2012 ALSC ALA Notable Children’s Books List 2012
  • 2012 International Reading Association Best Non-fiction Award
  • 2012 Top Ten Audio Books
  • 2012 YALSA ALA Quick Picks List for Nonfiction
  • 2012 Best Children’s Books of the Year, Bank Street
  • 2012 Capitol Choices Noteworthy Titles For Children and Teens
  • 2011 Cybils Awards Finalist (nonfiction)

Author Info:
Georgia Bragg is an artist and an author raised by artist parents in Los Angeles, CA. How They Croaked is her second book, and her most recent book is How They Choked Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. 

23 Minutes by Vivian Vande Velde

Bibliographic Citation:
Velde, Vivian Vande. (2016). 23 Minutes. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press. 978-1629794419.

Plot Summary:
Zoe is a teenage girl with a complicated past and an ability to sort-of time travel. She can relive events she wants to change, but only 23 minutes of them & it rarely changes things for the better. One day Zoe happens upon a bank robbery and knows she has to do whatever she can to help.

23minutes

Image from Amazon.com

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I am a lover of realistic fiction. You generally won’t find me with my nose in a fantasy or science fiction book. No wizards or vampires for me. But this book, though far from realistic, sucked me in. True crime is perhaps my favorite genre of all time, so it is likely that the crime scene tape reflected in the eye of the person on the cover is what got me, but nonetheless I read AND enjoyed the book. It sat on my desk for well over a month before I picked it up and then I read it cover to cover in about 2 hours. I genuinely liked both Zoe & Daniel, the main characters in the story. Zoe is a little bit different, but you like it probably because the story is told from her point of view. I don’t know if it is possible to hate a main character in a YA novel because you’re inside their heads basically, but moving on. Daniel is likable because he is just so darn nice, and always wants to help. They’re both heroes in this story for their unwavering desire to put other people before themselves. Zoe has the ability to walk away, and just can’t do it. She puts herself in harms way over and over again to try to save Daniel. She could’ve played it back that one time and just left it at that, but she didn’t. Daniel trusts a total stranger who sounds like a lunatic, and in a way sacrifices himself and his own safety for these other people. It would’ve been easy for both of them to just distance themselves from it all, and they can’t just do it. It is noble of them. Stupid at times, but admirable. The only thing I didn’t like was that I felt like the ending was a little cheesy. I don’t think Daniel would’ve bought Zoe a phone in real life, maybe a watch but not a prepaid phone. But then again, this isn’t real life because there aren’t 23 minute time travelers just popping in and out of certain events. Or are there?

Nominations:

  • Young Adult Library Services (YALSA) Quick Picks
  • 2016 Cybil (Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards) — Young Adult Speculative Fiction division

Author Info:

Vivian Vande Velde is the author of over 30 books ranging from picture books to books for adults. Her work has won several awards including School Library Journal Best Book of the Year (Never Trust a Dead Man), the Edgar for best young adult mystery (Never Trust a Dead Man) and the Anne Spencer Linbergh Prize for fantasy ( Heir Apparent).

Ruby on the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin

Bibliographic Citation:
Baskin, Nora Raleigh. (2015). Ruby on the Outside. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1442485044.

ruby-on-the-outside-9781442485044_hrPlot Summary:
A young girl named Ruby copes with life after her mother’s incarceration. She doesn’t quite know what happened that landed her mom in prison, and she doesn’t really remember much of her life before her mother left either. She struggles with making friends and is embarrassed about her nontraditional family life, until she meets a new girl in her neighborhood that changes everything.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Ruby on the Outside is a short, and easy read. I was immediately drawn to this book because someone very close to me was previously incarcerated. I wanted to see it from the child’s point of view and see if I could learn something from it. The story is told by Ruby Danes who lives with Matoo, her mom’s older sister. This story did have a happy ending, but I didn’t feel like it was cliché or predictable. For a little while I thought the story might be heading in a direction that seemed too coincidental to be believeable, but it ended up working out differently. I love contemporary, realistic fiction and I especially like things in stories that make it identifable and can really help you narrow in on a time frame. Ruby and the other girls in the story talk about iPhones, texting, and Demi Lovato posters which really makes you think it could be happening right now. This story felt like a memoir to me. Like I was actually reading the inner most thoughts of a young girl. It was lovely.

Awards and Honors:

  • CCBC Choices (Cooperative Children’s Book Council)
  • IRA Notable Books for a Global Society
  • Kansas State Reading Circle List Starred Intermediate Title
  • Wisconsin State Reading Association’s Reading List

Author Info:

Nora Raleigh Baskin is the author of 13 books, all of which are at least partially inspired by her life. Nora and her work have been recognized numerous times. She was the recipient of the Cuffie Award from Publishers Weekly for Most Promising New Author for her book What Every Girl (except me) Knows. Her novel Anything But Typical won the American Library Association’s (ALA) Schneider Family Award in 2010.