Small Spaces by Katherine Arden

YET AGAIN! As I prepare to write a little review and log this on Goodreads I find out that Goodreads is listing the book as “#1” of a series. That sort of spoils this a bit for me. In part because the ending felt solid to me and absolutely in no way did I think “wouldn’t it be good if this was a series?” And also because can’t a good book just be a good book and special all by itself?
OK, well. Before I knew that…
This isn’t the sort of book I would normally pick up for myself. I do love the cover-the paper cut, the pretty colors, etc. But it’s a spooky story. I read a great review of it before it came out, bought it for the library, and then checked out my own copy to read it. Many of the kids at school are always looking for spooky stories and I wanted to be able to say I read this and truly be able to recommend it. I do not typically read (or watch) anything scary and this was quite spooky! I think my students will love it. I’m a big baby so you really can’t go by me to judge the fright level. I will say that I finished reading it yesterday and then in the evening had to go outside to lock up the chicken coop. There was an almost full moon in the woods and the sky was a bit misty around the moon. And yes, I got totally freaked out going into the coop and being afraid of living scarecrows coming out of the woods to get me, dragging their trowel hands. I hustled back inside pretty quickly.
I really liked how she combined elements: grief and recovery from a tragic loss, making friends with unlikely people, taking charge and being brave, piecing together clues in the frightful mystery of what’s happening. It all worked really well.

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Blended by Sharon Draper

I feel like I should have liked this a lot more than I actually did. Sharon Draper is a terrific author. She is also the reader for this audiobook and I have to admit I didn’t love her reading of it. This is a pretty intense story about racial identity, racial profiling, divorce. I knew all that going in, but wow things got even more shocking/serious. This is a book I listened to with my daughter, which was nice. We paused the story a lot and had lots of important conversations.

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage

I loved how this was both historical fiction (Roswell, New Mexico, 1940whatever) and science fiction (a UFO really did crash and there were aliens on it.)  This was such an odd story, or at least, certainly unique. On the one hand you’ve got this sweet story about a boy and his parents trying to recover after the death of their son. Similarly they all love and care very much about the boy’s best friend, who father is a drunk and neglects his child.  Then you’ve got this historical setting that was so vivid I felt hot and thirsty just reading about it. It’s all ranches and dust and children riding horses to get to ranches. And then there’s the Martian (or, as more accurately, Moontian) who crash lands.
Maybe not the fastest paced book ever, but I still enjoyed it and appreciated the novelty of pretty much all of it.

A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

It was just coincidence that I read two Lisa Graff books within a couple of weeks.  And the two are totally different from each other (and from the previous book I’d read by her –The Thing About Georgie. I have to say I’m admiring the variety of stories she writes. They all have some nice messages and characterization, but packaged up differently each time.)
This one was right up my alley–magical, but real. Kind of like a Sarah Addison Allen novel for kids. The magic is well known and a part of life-most people have a Talent. What’s kind of fun is how bizarre some of them are. Things like “knowing the exact right cake to make for any occasion.” I loved the different Talents and how they weren’t all things like levitation and mind reading. The story takes place at a camp for children with Talents. The director is kind of shady and something is going on with the lake and the Talents. I liked how it was all tied in to a prologue (which, upon checking this on Goodreads I find out refers to a first novel that is a companion to this one.)
Very enjoyable.

The Great Treehouse War by Lisa Graff

I bought this for the library quite a while ago and read it so that I could recommend it better, but really it turned out to be quite a treat. I thought this was so fun and can’t imagine a kid not enjoying reading this and imagining their own live in treehouse. I liked the format of the book with post it notes, notes, and emails included in the “scrapbook” that tells the story.

Torn between two parents who want to divide their child perfectly equally, Winnie is really only happy on Wednesdays. On that day, rather than have their child have unequal time with a parent (since there are 7 days in a week), Winnie’s parents are content to let her live on her own on that day. (terrible parents. really.) She lives in a fantastic treehouse that somehow has plumbing and electricity (?!) and is located between her mother and father’s house.  Fed up with the feuding for her attention (while simultaneously giving her no attention) Winnie refuses to come out of the treehouse unless they both visit at the same time. Since they won’t she stays in there. Soon her classmates (conveniently a class of 10) join her and they all refuse to leave.
This is just the sort of story I found entertaining as a kid and still do. All the logical questions (why don’t they just go get her?) are quickly and preposterously answered (“the tree is technically an embassy and exempt from U.S. laws”! really?!).
Solidly fun.

One for the Murphys by Lynda Hunt

This is one I bought for the library and then my daughter had it out and she read it and was very talkative about it. It seemed like I needed to read this too, so that we could talk about it. At its core it does have a pretty heavy concept and sad thing to think about. Carley is with a foster family after a terrible domestic incident. The family she stays with seems so perfect and happy, and also foreign to her–there are hugs and forgiveness and family dinners.
I thought this was good book and although I was surprised by the ending and it wasn’t what I wanted, I guess I’m ok with it. Overall, very enjoyable and a good emotional realistic fiction choice.

Terra Tempo: The Four Corners of Time by David Shapiro, Christopher Herndon

This is #2 in the Terra Tempo series, but it was fine that I hadn’t read #1 as they kindly filled me in on everything in a brief intro. This was an enjoyable graphic novel filled with adventure and so much interesting geology and natural history that it almost seemed like a Science Comics at times. At times some of the plot was a little confusing, including how and why a giant bird sometimes saves them, but overall I thought this was good time travel for kids.