I Surived: The Galveston Hurricane, 1900 by Lauren Tashis

I Survived: The Galveston Hurricane, 1900

Lauren Tarshis, author

Scott Dawson, Illustrator

Scholastic Books, Historical Fiction, Sep. 7, 2021

Pages: 144

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Hurricane, Galveston, Texas, Bullying, Survival, Community

Publisher’s Synopsis:

More than a century later, the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 is still America’s deadliest disaster. Lauren Tarshis’s story of one child surviving the horrible event churns with page-turning action and bold hope.

The city of Galveston, Texas, was booming. Perched on an island off the southern coast of Texas, Galveston had been founded in the 1830s. By 1900, it was Texas’s richest and most important city. Boats loaded up with American cotton and wheat steamed from Galveston to countries around the world. Arriving ships were crowded with immigrants. The streets, paved with crushed oyster shells, sparkled like they’d been sprinkled with diamonds.

True, this glittering city was prone to flooding. But just a few years before, a weather forecaster had said the idea of a hurricane striking Galveston was absurd.

So when a storm started brewing on September 8, 1900, no one believed it would be any worse than previous storms. They gathered on the beach to cheer on the wild waves. But what started as entertainment soon turned into a nightmare as those wild waves crashed into the city. By morning, hundreds of homes were destroyed. Eight thousand people were dead. The city had all but disappeared,

In this thrilling installment of Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series, one child finds safety only to head back into the treacherous waters to make sure his neighbors are safe. 

Why I love this book/series:

I Survived: The Galveston Hurricane, 1900  is a riveting and suspenseful survival story that will sweep readers into the center of the hurricane. It is a guaranteed page-turner with a lot of heart-stopping action. Tarshis’s snappy text will encourage her audience to keep reading. Scott Dawson’s vivid illustrations add to the tension of the story. Just read the opening paragraph:

Nooooooooo!  A powerful blast of wind grabbed hold of eleven-year-old Charlie Miller and threw him into the raging flood. He screamed for his parents and his little sister as the churning waters swept him away.”

Charlie’s is a very relatable and fun character. He loves magic and studies the techniques of favorite magicians. He uses his tricks on his sister. He and his best friend Sarah spend time at the beach — especially after a storm or high tide causes the streets to flood and creates an “overflow.” The kids put on their swim suits and float down the streets. He has fun until he encounters a school bully, Gordon, who is just plain mean. 

An impressive amount of research went into writing this fictional tale, which includes real events and a lot of historical facts.  The only real-life character in the book, was Dr. Isaac Cline, head of the Galveston Weather Bureau, who was a widely respected weather expert. (There is more information about Dr Cline in the end papers.) He wrote many articles reassuring the community that a hurricane spun off the coast of Africa would not be able to reach Galveston — only the east coast of the U.S. In 1900, weatherman didn’t have the equipment that is available today. This would make for an interesting discussion.

According to Tarshis, the Galveston Hurricane, 1900, still remains the deadliest hurricane in U.S. history with 6,000 to 10,000 killed. Many people were swept out into the gulf.  I didn’t realize that Galveston was an island, a paradise for the residents and tourists. There were miles of beautiful beaches, homes, shops, restaurants, theaters and a port with big ships docking daily.  People rode in carriages or on bicycles. It was also the home for many wealthy people. 

Charlie didn’t know any survival techniques when he’s swept out into the middle of the hurricane. However, the author does use a technique in her story to show how Charlie finds the will to get out of some tough situations and eventually find a place to survive until the hurricane passes.

Make sure you check out the backmatter, “Keep Reading!” which includea many photographs of the real-life places that inspired Charlie’s story. Readers will get to see photographs of Galveston before and after the huuricane, articles about staying safe during hurricanes and information from the author about writing the story.

Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series tells stories of young people and their resilience and strength in the midst of unimaginable disasters and times of turmoil. Lauren has brought her signature warmth and exhaustive research to topics such as the battle of D-Day, the American Revolution, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Shark Attacks, the California Wildfires, the Attacks on September 11, 2001 and other world events. She lives in Connecticut with her family, and can be found on-line at laurentarshis.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

The Healing Star by A. Kidd

The Healing Star

A. Kidd, author

Quiet Storm Publishing, Fictioin, July 15,  2019

Pages: 240

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Stars, Adventure, Magic, Fantasy, Intergenerational relationship, Hope

Book Jacket Synopsis

Feisty fourth-grader Julia’s best friend in the entire universe is her grandmother. Julia and Grammu share secrets while cooking soup together, stay up late eating junk food and watching scary movies, and go stargazing on Blackberry Hill. They even wish on the same star every night.

But everything changes when Grammu catches the disappearing disease: little by little, she’s turning invisible. If Julia can catch a falling star, then her wish to save Grammu will come true. All Julia needs to do now is find the legendary ladder to the stars…

Why I like The Healing Star:

A. Kidd has written a magical story filled with heart and hope. Pause a moment to gaze at the beautiful fairy-tale cover.

What really stands out in The Healing Star is the endearing bond between Julia and her grandmother.  They stay up late watching scary movies and sharing secrets. They enjoy cooking together. They snuggle in bed together. Grammu shares wonderful stories about star-catching, healing star dust and the star constellations. They even pick their own star. Julia and Grammu are so close that they think of themselves as cosmic twins. So when Grammu falls ill, Julia has to catch a falling star to save he life.  Julia’s mother is skeptical, calling Grammu’s stories “old wives tales.”

When Julia fails to catch a falling star in Miller’s Field one special night, she and her loyal flatulent beagle, Pete, embark upon a dangerous journey to find the legendary ladder that leads to the stars. She discovers magical clouds, cloud people, and a cloud castle with a video game parlor. The story fantasy elements are fun but also teach Julia that not everyone is trustworthy.

This empathetic novel also dives into the uncertainty of life — disaapointment and loss — that many young people experience in their daily lives with loved ones.  It is a story about family and how we keep those memories in our hearts forever. The ending is very moving and will surprise readers. Julia will inspire readers to find  their own inner strengths during difficult times. This novel is a perfect read-aloud for younger kids and a read-alone for middle grade readers.     

A. Kidd is the middle child in a family of three girls. She started making up her own stories at age four. Because she couldn’t yet write, her mom wrote the stories down for her while she painted the pictures. Her first story was called Wagland and featured an island community with sea creatures that ate tuna fish sandwiches.

She has a B.S. in Written Communication with a minor in Language, Literature, and Writing from Eastern Michigan University and an MLIS with a specialization in children’s librarianship from Wayne State University. Her poetry has been published in literary magazines. A. Kidd lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb of Detroit, MI. The Healing Star is her debut novel. She often wishes on stars but hasn’t caught one yet. Connect with A. Kidd through her Facebook page.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the author in exchange for a review.

      

 

Singing with Elephants by Margarita Engle

 Check out Multicultural Children’s Book Day – Jan. 26, 2021

Official hashtag: #ReadYourWorld 

Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle, Author

Viking Books for Young Readers, Historical Fiction, May 31, 2022

Pages: 224

Suitable for ages: 8-12

Themes: Animals, Elephants, Nature preserve, Rescue, Gabriela Mistral, Poet, Intergenerational relationships, Cuban, Belonging, Friendship, Novel in verse, Multicultural

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A powerful novel in verse from Newbery and Pura Belpré Award-winning author Margarita Engle about the friendship between a young girl and the poet Gabriela Mistral that leads to healing and hope for both of them.

Cuban-born eleven-year-old Oriol lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she struggles to belong. But most of the time that’s okay, because she enjoys helping her parents care for the many injured animals at their veterinary clinic.

Then Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature moves to town, and aspiring writer Oriol finds herself opening up. And when she discovers that someone is threatening the life of a baby elephant at her parents’ clinic, Oriol is determined to take action. As she begins to create a world of words for herself, Oriol learns it will take courage and strength to do what she thinks is right—even if it means keeping secrets from those she loves.

A beautifully written, lyrically told story about the power of friendship—between generations, between humans and animals—and the potential of poetry to inspire action, justice, and acceptance.

Why I like Singing with Elephants

Margarita Engle’s compelling free-verse novel is about learning a new culture, loneliness, a love of animals and the power of friendships. Her narrative is spare in details, yet she paints big pictures with her words and evokes rich visual images. It is truly a novel written straight from the author’s  heart.

Oriol is a memorable, likable, determined and courageous character with a strong voice. She lives in Santa Barbara with her parents, who are veteranarians, and an older sister. Oriol misses Cuba and her beloved Abuelita, who recently passes. English is hard to write, speak and understand. Therefore, she stands out and is bullied at school, when her greatest wish is to belong and be accepted among her peers. Oriol turns to her poetry and the animals who seem to understand her. Especially Chandra, a pregnant elephant that lives at a wildlife-zoo and is under the care of her parents. However there is a mystery Oriol must solve. A bond forms between Oriol and Chandra and they dance together in their own way. An Oriol poem:

OUT LOUD

Hand in trunk with the elephant / I recite poems, and together / we sway as if dancing, / not mourning. 

Elephants seem to understand / the part of poetry that has no words / just music that echoes / like wind chimes/ or bells.  

I love intergenerational relationships. This story hit a sweet spot for me when Oriol meets an older woman from Chile who begins teaching her how poetry can help her express and understand her emotions. Oriol finds her gentle guidance salve for her soul. She soon finds herslef writing her words in English, in Spanish, and sometimes in both languages at one time. Oriol is not immediately aware she is being tutored by Gabriela Mistral,who is a poet, writer, educator, peace diplomat, and. the only Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. 

Engle’s fascinating Cuban-based novel is inspired by the late Gabriela Mistral, who is the only real character in the book, She did live in Santa Barbera around 1947. Make sure you check out the Author’s Note at the end and and exerpt from Gabriela’s Poetry for Children that inspires singing and dancing. This novel would also be a wonderful read for reluctant readers.

Margarita Engle is the Cuban American author of many books, including the verse novels Your Heart, My Sky; Rima’s Rebellion: Newbery Honor winner The Surrender Trees; and Forst World. Her verse memoirs includ Soaring Earth and Enchanted Air, the latter of which received the Pura Belpré Award and a Walter Dean Myers Honor, and was a finalist from YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction, among other honors. Her picture books include Drum Dream Girl, Hancing Hands, and The Flying Girls. Visit her at MargaritaEngle.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonterful reviews by KitLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Stellarlune by Shannon Messenger

Keeper of the Lost Cities: Stellarlune

Shannon Messenger, Author

Aladdin, Fiction, Nov. 8, 2022

Suitable for ages 12 and up

Pages: 738

Themes: Fantasy,  Magic, Adventure, Magical creatures, Friendship, Villains

Book Jacket Synopsis:

Sophie Foster changed the game. Now she’s facing impossible choices: when to act, when to trust, and when to let go.

Her friends are divided and scattered, and the Black Swan wants Sophie to focus on their projects. But her instincts are leading her somewhere else.

Stellarlune—and the mysterious Elysian—might be the key to everything. But finding truth in the Lost Cities always requires sacrifice. And as the Neverseen’s plans sharpen into terrifying focus, it appears that everyone has miscalculated. The Lost Cities’ greatest lie could destroy everything. And in the battle that follows, only one thing is certain: nothing will ever be the same.

In this stunning ninth book in the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Keeper of the Lost Cities series, Sophie and her friends discover the true meaning of power—and evil.

Why I like Stellarlune:

Many teens have been gifted Stellarlune over the holidays. so I am going to be careful and not spoil anything for readers.  First of all, Karin Paorocki’s cover is stunning!  Gorgeous and packed with action!  

Shannon Messenger is certainly setting the stage in Stellarlune for the fate of the Lost Cities. Dedicated fans will find  her story gripping, risky, and thought-provoking. This story ties up loose ends as it prepares readers for what is to come in her final novel next year. How will it all end, only Messenger knows. And yes Shannon, some readers will think your ending is “evil,” (your words, not mine). But that cliff hangar is spectacular and will leave readers with gaping mouths and playing out many scenarios in their minds until the final novel is released and all is revealed. 

Two standouts for me in this series are Messenger’s magnificent worldbuilding and her impressive cast of characters, who are growing up. Sophie is more mature, and has her abilities under control. But she is a teenager, so there are times she is impulsive, over zealous, headstrong and reckless as she carries the elven world on her shoulders. Needless to say there is a lot of normal teen drama in this book. Her friends Fitz, Biana, Dex, Linh, Tam, Marilla, Maruca, and Wylie are upset with her lack of team work. So Sophie’s working hard on finetuning her leadership skills, to keep Team Valliant strong and one step ahead of the Neverseen. And there is a little more romance in this story. Keefe–Sophie fans will be cheering. But Keefe flees to the Lost Cities to hide from his evil mother, Lady Gisela, who is conducting experiments on him and triggering dangerous abilities he can’t control.

The plot is action-packed. It picks up from the previous book, where Sophie and a few friends return from blowing up a hidden Neverseen storage facility. They retrieve valuable information, including the stolen “caches” of former Councillor Kenric and Fintan, an evil Pyrokinetic. Readers will know that there will be retaliation at some point in the story. But, lines are beginning to blur a bit between good and evil, when Sophie tries to understand hidden secrets from the ancient world the Council has hidden for a millennium. A meeting with the enemy only reinforces that. premise. Sophie and Team Valliant are beginning to question how the secrets have contributed to the instability they are all feeling in the Lost Cities. Sophie knows that CHANGE is inevitable and it will be fascinating how it plays out in the end.  I will not share anything more as I don’t want to spoil anything for readers.  

So while we read, Shannon is masterfully writing and plotting the finale!  Stellarlune is a thrilling read for her worldwide fans! If you are new to the Keeper of the Lost Cities series, do not start with this book! Start with the first volume and you can binge read the entire series.

Shannon Messenger graduated from the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she learned — among other things — that she liked watching movies much better than making them. She studied art, screenwriting, and film production, but she realized her real passion was writing stories for children. She’s the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the award-winning middle grade series Keeper of the Lost Cities, as well as the Sky Fall series for young adults. Her books have been featured on multiple state reading lists, published in numerous countries, and translated into many different languages. She lives in Southern California with her family — and an embarrassing number of cats. Visit Shannon at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

Friends Like These by Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

Friends Like These

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, Author

Delacorte Press,  Fiction, Nov. 1, 2022

Suitable for ages: 12-17

Themes: Teens, Parties, Dating, Revenge, Mystery, Crime, Assault, Suspense  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

A Party 

A Betrayal

A Girl who disappears

Mistake number one . . .

Fun-loving Jake tells his girlfriend, Jessica, that they have to go to Tegan’s end-of-summer party in their tiny California beach town. Jessica doesn’t like parties, and she doesn’t like Tegan, who has an obvious, obsessive crush on Jake. But she agrees to go, to make Jake happy. 

Mistake number two . . .

Something awful happens at the party. Something so embarrassing that Jessica doesn’t know if she can ever get over it—and Jake will do whatever it takes to earn her forgiveness. And now a girl is missing. Everyone is a suspect. And Jake seems to have a lot to hide. . . . 

When a body is discovered at the beach, friends start turning on friends, and lies start piling up on lies. What happened could destroy their lives. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? Mistake number three . . .

Why I like Friends Like These:

Jennifer Alvarez’s has written a gripping and haunting psychological thriller that will take readers on an emotional journey. So hang on tight! The setting, compelling characters with a dark edge, and a realistic plot are so brilliantly intertwined that they create an extraordinary reading experience.

The narrative is superbly written in three alternating voices of Jessica, Jake and Tegan and is divided into three parts. It is fast-paced — don’t blink — and addictive.  The tension is palpable. Alvarez doesn’t let up until the very end. You may think you know the guilty parties as your read, but you won’t. There are more twists and turns in this story that will keep readers off-balance. And there is a huge cliff-hangar at the end.  Readers may want to think twice before they go to unsupervised parties! 

There is a large cast of characters that are complicated. I’m only focusing on the threesome.  Jessica is kind and spunky. And she’s in love with Jake who has recently lost his dad. His anger over that loss causes him to act out. Tegan is the rich mean girl who gets what she wants at any cost. She dated Jake for six weeks until he breaks it off. I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil the story for readers. After you read the story make sure you read her author’s note at the end.

With two outstanding YA fiction novels in the last two years, including Lies Like Wildfire, Alvarez will certainly become a beloved author for many high school students seeking a good mystery. For younger readers, check out her MG fantasy series mentioned in her bio.

Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is the author of a YA  Lies Like Wildfire and two middle-grade fantasy series The Guardian Herd and Riders of the Realm. She earned her BA in English Literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the Sonoma County coordinator for SCBWI. Jennifer splits her time between Northern California and Middle Tennessee. When she’s not writing books, she travels with her husband in the overland RV, dreaming up new stories to tell. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

 

 

Hope Wins : A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers

Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers

Edited by Rose Brock

Philomel, Nonfiction, May 10,2022

Pages: 208

Suitable for ages 8-12

Themes: Hope, Change, Difficulty, Inspiration

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Where does hope live?

In your family?

In your community?

In your school?

In your heart?

From a family restaurant to a hot-dog shaped car, from an empty road on a moonlight night to a classroom holiday celebration, this anthology of personal stories from award-winning and bestselling authors, shows that hope can live everywhere, even—or especially—during the darkest of times.

No matter what happens: Hope wins.

Contributors include: Tom Angleberger, James Bird, Max Brallier, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Soman Chainani, Matt de la Peña, Stuart Gibbs, Adam Gidwitz, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Pam Muñoz Ryan, Ronald L.Smith, Christina Soontornvat, and R.L. Stine.

What I like about this book:

I love that Rose Brock took her book Hope Nation and created a younger version for for middle grade readers. Brock carefully selected a cast of  22 bestselling children’s authors and asked them to share a personal story about what hope meant to them in their youth and its impact on them today

Readers will discover how very different hope is for each author. For me, each offering reads like a letter from a friend. There is something in this book for everyone. Hope is a very personal idea or thought for each of us. How I describe it is different from how you describe it. 

Christina Soontornvat shares stories about working in her family’s Asian restaurant and the valuable life lessons she learned working around people that aren’t taught in school. I enjoyed her observation about how we are all “influencers” no matter what we do. Gordon Korman’s shares a story about his 7th grade English teacher asking  students to write a novel. Korman’s novel ends up being published when he’s in eighth grade. That experience inspires him to become an author — something he never thought about.  Hena Khan shares what it means to feel different in school and how it forms her personality.  Suart Gibbs shares his truth about adversity and grief following the death of a loved one. Adam Gidwitz shares his lifelong struggle with “coolness” and he has some interesting insight into how he turns it around. Pablo Cartaya writes a letter to his eighth-grade daughter upon her graduation. R.L. Stine shares his ghostly encounter.

Each tale is heartfelt, moving and filled with encouragement. Hope describe a variety of different experiences. For many it represents inspiration and the possibility of a positive outcome during difficult times. I  found it interesting how each author thought about hope. And some didn’t believe in hope and found ways to hope for negativity. I highly recommended for middle grad readers to encourage them to think, dream and discover what hope means in their lives.

And take a moment to admire the gorgeous cover illustration by Vashti Harrison. It is so warm and appealing and will draw readers. And there is a a lovely Introduction to the book by Dr. Rose Brock at the beginning that readers won’t want to miss!  

Dr. Rose Brock is a professor and educator at Sam Houston State University who has dedicated her career to turning young people into book lovers. Building relationships with readers through books is her superpower. In addition to her career as a librarian and educator, Dr. Brock is the cofounder of NTTBF, the North Texas Teen Book Festival, the largest library run book festival for young people in the country. Dr. Brock was awarded the Siddie Joe Johnson Award for Outstanding Service to Youth by the Texas Library Association. She is the editor of Hope Nation: Young Adult Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration and author of Young Adult Literature in Action: A Librarian’s Guide. Visit her online at drrosebrock.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*This book was gifted to me by Greg Pattridge as he knew I was dealing with a lot of personal challenges a few months ago. It is an uplifting read for adults too. Thank you Greg! 

 

Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire

Cress Watercress 

Gregory Maguire, Author

David Litchfield, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Mar. 29, 2022

Pages: 224

Suitable fore ages: 8-12

Themes: Animals, Family, Loss, Moving, Friendships, Independence,  Fantasy, Magic

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Gregory Maguire turns his trademark wit and wisdom to an animal adventure about growing up, moving on, and finding community. When Papa doesn’t return from a nocturnal honey-gathering expedition, Cress holds out hope, but her mother assumes the worst. It’s a dangerous world for rabbits, after all. Mama moves what’s left of the Watercress family to the basement unit of the Broken Arms, a run-down apartment oak with a suspect owl landlord, a nosy mouse super, a rowdy family of squirrels, and a pair of songbirds who broadcast everyone’s business.

Can a dead tree full of annoying neighbors, and no Papa, ever be home? In the timeless spirit of E. B. White and The Wind and the Willowsyet thoroughly of its time—this read-aloud and read-alone gem for animal lovers of all ages features an unforgettable cast that leaps off the page in glowing illustrations by David Litchfield. This tender meditation on coming-of-age invites us to flourish wherever we find ourselves.

Why I like Cress Watercress:

Gregory Maguire’s Cress Watercress is a delightful celebration of the wonders and beauty of the natural world, along with the hidden dangers and threats lurking on rocks, behind trees and in the plants and flowers. 

Reading Gregory Maguire’s Cress Watercress, stirred up so many fond childhood  memories of  sitting on my mother’s lap and listening to Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit,. I was eager to read Maguire’s (Wicked) more contemporary story about a family of rabbits who deal with grief, loss and all the difficulties of life, while learning to create a home where they can heal and move forward after a tragedy. The animal characters are relatable with human emotions. The story is both sad and happy. It’s  packed with adventure and suspense, and has a strong sense of community.

Maguire’s imagery is rich and vivid and a delight to read.  For example, “The setting sun was a lumpy clementine in a net bag of string clouds. The air, so cool and damp. A few birds moaned in falling tones.” David Litchfield’s lively and breathtaking artwork makes this story sing. Readers will delight in his colorful eye-popping images. I believe my favorite illustration is the split oak tree apartment, which alludes to a  theme of dark and light in the story. It is a perfect read aloud book for bedtime, with short chapters and delightfully humorous, cranky, witty, conniving and dangerous characters. 

Gregory Maguire, is the author of the incredibly popular  Wicked, which inspired the musical. He is also the author of several books for children, including What-the-Dickens, a New York Times best seller, and Egg an Spoon,, a New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of the Year. Gregory Maguire lives outside Boston.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for a review.

 

 

I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910 by Lauren Tarshis

I Survived the Wellington Avalanche, 1910

Lauren Tarshis, Author

Scott Dawson, Illustrator

Scholastic, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Sep. 6, 2022

Pages: 144

Suitable for ages: 8-12 (reading level Grade 4)

Themes: Avalanche, Trains, Survival, Wellington, Orphans, Gangsters, Theft

Publisher’s Synopsis:

The Wellington snow slide of 1910 was―and still is―the deadliest avalanche in America’s history. 

The snow is coming down faster than train crews can clear the tracks, piling up in drifts 20 feet high. In a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains, Janie Pryor — and the other passengers trapped on the Seattle Express train – wait for the horrific blizzard to end.

One day passes, then two. three…six days. Secretly, Janie doesn’t mind being stuck on the mountain. She’s safe from the brutal gangsters chasing after her. And so far, nobody on the train knows about the stolen jewels Janie has sewn in a hidden pocket of her coat. And for the first time since her parents death, she’s enjoying sleeping in a warm bed and eating food.

At the Wellington train depot in the Cascade Mountains  two trains sat stranded, blocked in by snow slides to the east and west. Some male passengers brave the storm to make the treacherous hike off the mountain to a town called Scenic. They send word for no one to follow, it’s too dangerous. Many passengers have no choice but to wait out the storm, because of age or they have children.

Then, just after midnight on March 1,the snow turns to rain and  a lightning storm strikes the mountain, sending a ten-foot-high wave of snow barreling down the mountain. The trains tumbled 150 feet. 96 people are dead. Janie sees it coming an runs, but is buried in a ferocious wave of snow, giant rocks and train parts. Can she make it out alive?

The Wellington avalanche forever changed railroad engineering. 

Why I like this book/series:

I Survived: The Wellington Avalanche, 1910, is a  gripping survival story that will thrill readers with its heart-pounding action.  Tarshis’s snappy text moves along at quick pace, encouraging her audience to keep reading. Scott Dawson’s expressive illustrations add to the tension of the story. Just read the opening paragraph: 

RRRRRRRooooooor! The earsplitting explosion shook the ground. Eleven-year–old Janie Pryor swung her head around and stared in horror. The mountain above her seemed to have shattered apart. A massive wave of icy snow was crashing down. An avalanche!” 

This book is a excellent way to teach young readers about different events in history, narrated by someone their own age. I am impressed with the amount of research that goes into this piece of historical fiction. Readers will learn about how avalanches form, how poorly the railway system was at the turn of the century, the placement of tracks too close to cliffs and the inability to track weather conditions. They will also learn about how this disaster led to railway changes.

Janie’s story represents another interesting part of history — the plight of the thousands of children who are orphans. Janie’s parents are killed in an accident and she is on her own. Many end up in deplorable orphanages, work houses, begging on the streets, stealing, and sleeping in alleys. Janie is snagged to work for criminals, like Ray Malvo, who force her to deliver stolen jewels by train and watch her every move. Her storyline is interesting in the book and kids will cheer for her.

What they won’t learn in this story is survival techniques. Perhaps there weren’t techniques, like today. Janie only hears the mountain explode and runs as fast as she can to save her life before she is buried in snow, ice and debris.  However, the author does use a technique in her story to show how Janie finds the will to live until she is rescued.  

This the 22nd book in the ” I Survived” middle grade series. The reading level is set at fourth grade. So it is certainly the perfect series to hand to a reluctant readers. 

Make sure you check out the backmatter, which include many photographs of the real-life places that inspired Janie’s story. Readers will get to see inside the trains, newspapers articles. photographs of the crash sites and information about from the author about writing the story.

Lauren Tarshis’s New York Times bestselling I Survived series tells stories of young people and their resilience and strength in the midst of unimaginable disasters and times of turmoil. Lauren has brought her signature warmth and exhaustive research to topics such as the battle of D-Day, the American Revolution, Hurricane Katrina, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Shark Attacks, the California Wildfires, the Attacks on September 11, 2001 and other world events. She lives in Connecticut with her family, and can be found online at laurentarshis.com.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a purchased copy.

 

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust by Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene

Signs of Survival: A Memoir of the Holocaust

Renee Hartman with Joshua M. Greene, Authors

Scholastic Press, Nonfiction, Jan 4., 2022

Suitable for ages:  8-12

Pages: 128

Themes: Sisters, Deafness, Czechoslovakia, Holocaust, Survival., Biography

Publisher’s Synopsis:

 I was ten years old then, and my sister was eight. The responsibility was on me to warn everyone when the soldiers were coming because my sister and both my parents were deaf. 

I was my family’s ears.

Meet Renee and Herta, two sisters who faced the unimaginable — together. This is their true story.

As Jews living in 1940s Czechoslovakia, Renee, Herta, and their parents were in immediate danger when the Holocaust came to their door in 1943. As the only hearing person in her family, Renee had to alert her parents and sister whenever the sound of Nazi boots approached their home so they could hide.

It became too dangerous, and their parents sent the two girls to live on a farm miles outside of their town of Bratislava. But soon their parents were tragically taken away to Auschwitz. The farmers made the girls leave. The two sisters went on the run, desperate to find a safe place to hide. Eventually they, too, would be captured and taken to the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen. Communicating in sign language and relying on each other for strength in the midst of illness, death, and starvation, Renee and Herta would have to fight to survive the darkest of times.

This gripping memoir, told in a vivid “oral history” format, is a testament to the power of sisterhood and love, and now more than ever a reminder of how important it is to honor the past, and keep telling our own stories.

What I like about Sings of Survival:

I’ve reviewed many Holocaust books for middle grade students, but this book is really an excellent “first book” on the subject for young readers.  It is informative, without revealing too much scary information for children. The book is only 120 pages with short chapters narrated by both Renee and Herta.

Renee and Herta’s stories are taken from interviews from the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University. Renee and her husband, Yale Professor Geoffrey Hartman, founded the program.  Geoffrey was a Holocaust survivor.  It was their mission to record as many survivor stories as possible. Joshua Green, who produces books and films, transcribed their stories and edited them together. But they are both Renne and Herta’s own inspiring words.  

This is the first book, where I’ve encountered a deaf family and the danger they faced. They can’t hear soldiers outside, the marching of boots, and air raid sirens. Renee’s big job was to alert her family when soldiers approached. I enjoyed the very strong bond between Renee and Herta. Renee fiercely protects her sister throughout their ordeal . She manages to keep the the Nazi doctors from experimenting on her sister. Herta meets other deaf prisoners and learns to sign in several languages and is strong in her own way. Just before the camp is liberated, Renee comes down with typhoid fever and nearly dies. But Herta won’t let her and gets her to hold on until the camp is liberated. They are both sent Sweden to recover for three years, before American relatives locate them and fly them to New York City in 1948. Herta finally is able to attend a deaf school.

Make sure your check out the Epilogue by Joshua Greene at the end of the story. There are also photos of Renee and her family, that relatives found and sent them. There are photos of them in America, where family cared for them. Readers will also view pictures of  Bratislava in the 1930s, children living the Jewish quarter of Bratislava, deportation and prisoners at Bergen-Belsen.

Renee Hartman was born in Bratislava, which is now the capital of Slovakia. She and her sister were arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen, where they endured horrifying conditions, and where Renee nearly succumbed to typhus. After being liberated, Renee and her sister immigrated to the United States. Ever since, Renee has been writing about her experiences in the Holocaust. She lives in Connecticut.

Joshua M. Greene produces books and films about the Holocaust. His documentaries have been broadcast in twenty countries and his books translated into eight languages. He has taught Holocaust history for Fordham and Hofstra Universities. He lives in Old Westbury, New York.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change by Leslie Davenport

All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change

Leslie Davenport, Author

Jessica Smith, Illustrator

Magination Press, Nonfiction, 2021

Suitable for ages: 10-14 

Themes: Climate change, Emotions, Global warming, Weather  

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Climate change challenges every part of our world and our lives, and learning about it can bring up some big emotions.

Discover all the ways that nature is beautiful, powerful, delicate, fierce, mysterious, and awesome. Find ways to take action and cope with big emotions with journal prompts and self-guided activities you can do anywhere. Read about kids just like you who have made a difference, and what the future looks like.

Climate change affects everyone…but change can start with you.

Why I like this book:

After reviewing Alan Gratz’s new novel Two Degrees last week, I thought All the Feelings Under the Sun: How to Deal with Climate Change would pair nicely with his book and help young people process their feelings about what they hear on the news and experience personally in their communities. 2022 has been an active year. Many kids worldwide have lived through wildfires in California and Colorado, hurricanes in Florida and Mexico, major flooding in the Appalachians, Nigeria and Pakistan, an earthquake in China and summer droughts and heat waves throughout Europe, and tornadoes in the southern states.  

Climate change is scary for everyone. Davenport says that dealing with emotions like anger, fear, sadness will help young people “build inner resiliency: our emotional strength” This is a perfect book for teachers and school libraries to include in their studies and discussions about climate change. .

The book is beautifully crafted and easy to read with fun and interesting illustrations. There are five chapters: How We Know What We Know, The Earth is Heating Up, Everything is Connected, Practicing Eco-Justice, and Making a Healthier World Together. Readers will learn the differences between climate change, global warming and weather events. Each chapter includes age appropriate facts, encourages journaling, writing and art activities, and includes exercises to help readers calm themselves and build courage. Acknowledging feelings of anxiety can free readers so that they can become part of the solution. Davenport encourages readers to discover what they believe, what they are passionate about and how they can use their own talents to help create a healthier environment. The book includes some fascinating information about what they can learn from Indigenous traditions and “see all parts of nature as our relatives.”  They will meet many young people, like Greta Thunberg, and important youth groups that encourage kids to make a difference through art, writing, legal efforts, and social media campaigns. Some may choose to become climate activists.

Links to youth organizations that have come together to create many organizations to strengthen their voices through collective action and peer support. The author recommends the following groups: Zero House, young people focused on climate and environmental justice and Sunrise,.young people who believe that reversing climate change means reorganizing how the government operates. Read about their activities in the book and check out their sites.

Leslie Davenportis a Marriage and Family Therapist bringing 30 years of clinical experience to the emerging field of Climate Psychology. She works as an educator and consultant to institutes recognizing the benefits of behavioral research for cultural shifts and policy change. She is the author of three previous books, including Emotional Resiliency in the Era of Climate Change. Leslie has worked at Ground Zero on disaster mental health teams and is on faculty with the California Institute of Integral Studies. She has offices in Tacoma, WA, and in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit Davenport at her website

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Make sure you check out the many links to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Review copy provided by Imagination Press in exchange for a review.