The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

This is WWII fiction, so I wouldn’t call it “light” but it was a lovely very pleasant easygoing type of WWII story. I very much enjoyed the set up of the present day woman finding and old diary and reading it and trying to piece together what happened to the author. Those chapters alternated with the woman’s story as she lived it during WWII, including being part of the Ack-Ack male-female bombers.  A little light romance as well as the present day main character being prompted to figure out her own grandmother’s WWII secrets made this all together a very nice package.

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Front Desk by Kelly Yang

This was just fantastic. A great realistic fiction story I know I’ll be recommending to lots of kids. This book had so much emotion in it-at least it provoked a lot of emotions at me: fury at the injustice and racism Mia’s family had to endure, sadness for her family, disbelief and anger at the racist police and landlord, frustration with Mia’s teacher for not seeing how the other children were treating her, admiration for Mia for her courage and not giving up, happiness at seeing the motel residents gather round Mia’s family, and hopefulness for all. And, frankly, depression and shame that humans would treat other humans so unfairly and cruelly.

I think what I liked about this was that while it had plenty in it to open childrens’ eyes  and promote empathy for immigrants, it was also just a really good story. I liked seeing Mia make a friend, I thought all the characters who lived at the motel were good supporting characters, and I liked the details about her family’s Chinese culture.

I especially enjoyed reading the afterward and finding out how much of this story is directly taken from the author’s life! So, if you read this and think “oh my gosh that can’t be true!” or “things like that only happened 60 years ago!” , guess what? That’s not the case.
I thought this was a terrific story, but also a really important one for children to read.

Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale

Having recently reread Princess Academy and realizing that a. I thought that book was great and b. I’d never read the sequels, I picked this up recently. I ended up not taking it on vacation with me and had it waiting at home to enjoy recuperating from vacation by lying on the couch reading this. Hale is such a good writer (though I will admit I skip the quarry songs at the start of each chapter, even though I’m sure she worked hard on them.) As a sequel I thought this was great-it built on what we learned about the land and the characters from the first book and introduced a real consequence and new world to them after the victory at the end of the first book. It was hard not to read about commoner uprisings and tyrant kings and not see it in light of the current political landscape! I liked how Hale managed to included details that showed how truly cut off the Esklanders had been for generations, such as they literally knew nothing of medicine. Miri’s lessons in bravery and diplomacy come in handy, along with her new studies in ethics. And the somewhat magical properties of linder become more apparent (and useful.)
I thought this was an exciting sequel and look forward to reading the conclusion.

Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Not to be confused with Blankets by Craig Thompson! But also a graphic novel. The overall look of this caught my eye at the bookstore and I bought it for school. It was an easy one day read (maybe even one long sitting but I fell asleep in the hammock!), and also met with approval from my almost-11 year old.
Marjorie is only 13 but she is single handedly running her family laundromat. We quickly put together it’s because her mom died last year and her father’s been in a depression ever since, mostly leaving her and her little brother on her own. As you can imagine, Marjorie is not really equipped to go to school, run the laundromat, worry about the business failing, and cope with the loss of her mother all on her own. I love that the ghost character in this story is also a child, Wendell, who also seems to be having a little trouble on his own. At least Wendell lives in a kind of ghost town with plenty of other children (which is horribly sad when you think about it, but somewhat glossed over.)  There is a dastardly character in this story who is really so bizarre-he wants to cheat them out of their business, he wears suits and is robust looking but always on twinkle toes, he wants to turn it into a yoga and spa, and he’s clearly a villain. And satisfied to threaten/do business with a 13 year old?? Honestly, that was a bit weird but I was happy to have a willing suspension of disbelief and sit back and watch the story unfold, hoping that Wendell and Marjorie might be able to help each other out and happy that they did.
I would have liked some more “fun” details about Wendell’s life as a ghost, such as his support group and “ghosturizer”, which kept their ghostly sheets clean.

The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone

I read this book a couple of years ago and ever since have valiantly recommended it to many students. I’m not sure many of them have taken me up on it, but now hearing the story a second time (this time audiobook) I stand by my recommendations! This is a great book, exactly the sort of thing I liked to read as a child. {Since writing that Paul told me that when he looked on amazon all the reviews were uniformly poor! That people were very critical of the writing. And while I do think that I questioned some things, such as if it were me I’d keep that key and shrink down every single weekend, overall I enjoyed it and didn’t find the writing terrible.}
When I read this book I loved reading about theses miniature rooms in a museum. Though I hadn’t seen the real Thorne Rooms, when I lived in Pittsburgh there was an exhibit of similar miniature rooms at the Carnegie. I loved looking in those rooms and marveling at the detail and imagining people who lived in them. So it was easy for me to imagine the Thorne Rooms and the thrill of shrinking and visiting them. Which brings us to planning a vacation in Chicago this summer. You’d better believe that visiting the Thorne Rooms was at the top of the list! And we brought the audiobook to listen to. We ended up listening on our drive back instead of there, but that’s ok. The real Thorne Rooms were wonderful and the audio guide at the museum even included Marianne Malone talking about her book and pointing out which rooms are specific to the story. The whole thing was very enchanting. Perhaps that skews my delight in the story, but I don’t think so. Or maybe it does, in which case who cares?

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

It’s practically a dirty little secret that I never read this before. Not only am I a children’s librarian, but this book happened to be very popular when I was a child myself!
We listened to this on a long car trip (it’s pretty short though-only 3 discs.) When it finished my husband and I remarked that you could tell it was an old book because it was so sloooooooooooow. The story was a little darker than I thought it would be. I also thought, for me at least, it wasn’t well suited for audio because of the long meandering descriptions of sunlight and frogs and atmosphere.
That said, it’s kind of quirky and weird and fascinating and I can see why people are still reading it all these years later.

Heat and light by Jennifer Haigh

I thought this was WONDERFUL and was glad I read it fairly soon after Baker Towers (which I also thought wonderful.) Even better–I was about halfway through as we began our road trip to Chicago, which meant driving straight across endless Pennsylvania (it is a dull drive between Philly and Pittsburgh, although a fairly pretty one.) I saw many places that looked like they could be Bakerton. I was seeing the setting for the book which was great and helped put it into perspective. It also did a good job of finally explaining fracking to me.
Like Baker Towers there were lots of different characters and threads. Also like Baker Towers I felt like many of the characters were really unlikable and also made poor choices. It was fairly depressing, especially since there’s not a neat ending.
Wonderfully written and I kept returning to thinking about it days after I finished.