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 ChokedL Failures, Flops, and Flaws of the Awfully Famous. 

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Bibliographic Citation:
Schmidt, Gary D. (2015). Orbiting Jupiter. New York, NY: Clarion Books. ISBN 978-0544462229.

jupiter

Image from Amazon.com

Plot Summary:
Orbiting Jupiter tells story of Joseph, a young, troubled teenage father, who has never seen his daughter. After being placed with a foster family he learns what he’ll do for the people he cares about and what it really means to be a family.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
Orbiting Jupiter is a short, easy read that will move you to tears. This book was recommended to me because it is sad and it definitely delivers the emotions. The story is told by Jack, Joseph’s foster brother and he is the perfect narrator because he roots for him from day one. As I’ve mentioned before, literature for children and young adults tends to always have a happy ending, this story does too — which I like — but it felt very predictable to me. I don’t want to give away any spoilers but it ends the way you probably think it will once you start reading. That doesn’t make it any less enjoyable, but it is what it is. I’ll recommend this book to my students who are specifically seeking out a book that will make them cry.

Awards and Honors:
Capitol Choices 2016
Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2015, Middle Grade
Booklist Best Young Adult Books of 2015
ALA Notable Books for Children 2016, Older Readers
VOYA’s Perfect Tens 2015; 2016 Winner, Notable Books for a Global Society
CCBC Choices 2016, Fiction for Young Adults
2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Fiction
ILA Young Adults’ Choices, 2016 Reading List

Author Info:

Gary D. Schmidt is the author of more than 15 books and the recipient of several awards. His book Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boys won both a Newbery Honor Award and a Printz Honor in 2005.  Additionally, in 2008 his book The Wednesday Wars was also a Newbery Honor Award winner.

 

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We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

Bibliographic Citation:
Nielsen, Susin. (2016). We Are All Made of Molecules. New York, NY: Ember. ISBN 978-0553496895.

molecules

(Image from GoodReads.com)

Plot Summary:
We Are All Made of Molecules tells the story of of a blended family through the eyes of the children, Stewart and Ashley. Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mom fall in love and move in together, but Stewart and Ashley could not be more opposite. Ashley has a secret and cares too much about appearances to give her new stepbrother a fair chance, but they bond when he comes to her rescue.

Critical Analysis & Personal Opinion:
I enjoyed reading this story because Stewart, Ashley, and their parents seemed to be authentic. While Ashley isn’t always that likable, she is believable. Her sass, her concerns, her conversations are all within the realm of possibility for a girl her age and mindset. The best thing about these characters and this story line is that it is not a love story. Literature for children and young adults tends to always have a happy ending, this story does too — which I like — but it wasn’t cliche about it in my opinion. I like that *SPOILER ALERT* Stewart and Phoebe don’t magically fall in love and start dating. That would seem forced. I like that everyone comes around and that the blended family starts to feel more natural, but I didn’t want it to feel predictable or cliche. It really didn’t. As an adult reading any YA lit there are parts where you don’t buy into it as much because you’re really not the intended audience, but it was still enjoyable. I will recommend this to my students who aren’t big love story fans.

This book is heartwarming and has a strong message. There are some more mature scenarios and language, but it is a complex story that is worth reading.

Awards and Honors:
Longlisted for the 2016 Carnegie Medal, UK
2015 Governor General’s Literary Award Nominee, Children’s Text
Winner of the 2016 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award
2016/17 Texas Lonestar Award Nominee
2016/17 Georgia Peach Book Award Nominee
A USBBY 2016 Selection for Outstanding International Books
2016 Canadian Library Association Honor Book, Young Adult Novel category
2016 OLA Red Maple Award Honor Book
2016 Saskatchewan Snow Willow Award Nominee
2017 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee
2017 Rocky Mountain Book Award Nominee
Kirkus Reviews “Best Teen Books of 2015”
Quill & Quire’s “Best Kids’ Books of 2015”
The Globe 100’s “Best Books of 2015”

Author Info:

Susin Nielson is the author of 4 (soon to be 5!)  books. Her work has received a hefty amount of praise including many starred reviews and two IndieFab Awards, one for her novel Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom and the other for her first novel Word Nerd.