Review: George

George
George by Alex Gino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the most important book I’ve read this summer-maybe the most important book since Speak. George is certain of her identity but uncertain about all her family and friends’ reactions. With the help of her friend Kelly, she is able to navigate letting the world know that she is a girl. There are so many students who need this book and families who could benefit from the insight provided by the 1st person narrative. While George is a 4th grader, any age reader could read and appreciate this book, making it an excellent crossover novel and invaluable resource. George is lucky that her best friend is so understanding and the revelation provides clarity to her brother Scott’s confusion about George’s personality. George’s “village” is slower to understand, which is realistic, and as George’s mother says, there is a long road ahead of all of them. But what a powerful message to kids that owning your identity is ok and speaking out and making oneself heard is the best way to understanding those we live with. I can’t wait to offer this book to my students and POSSIBLY help them discuss and understand that no matter how differently we are all made, it is truly important to BE WHO YOU ARE.

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Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – Parts One and Two by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was great to be back in Harry’s world. It’s so interesting to see all the characters again and how they’ve matured as middle-aged adults versus their adolescent selves I know and love so well. The play format, staging, and stage directions add an element to the story that is new and intriguing. The story is layered in that readers relive parts of the well-loved stories we already know – adding complexity to those scenes while weaving them into Albus and Scorpius’s new adventure. The father/son dynamic is heavy here with both boys and *spoiler* there is much needed closure between Harry and Dumbledore along those lines**. Ginny and Hermione are formidable as always, with Ron (my favorite) adding much needed doses of levity and reality throughout. At times it feels like a writing exercise with Rowling et al exploring “what-ifs” in previous and future wizarding world scenarios. However, the themes of love, family, trust, and honesty that made the original series such a treasure are still present making this a great addition to the HP family.

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Review: One for the Murphys

One for the Murphys
One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The sobbing. It was not The Ugly Cry but fairly consistent tears for the last 30 pages or so. Hunt does an incredible job with Carley’s toughened sensitivity. There are so many times I wanted to shake her and then immediately pull her into a hug. Carley’s story of ending up in a foster home is one of neglect rather than blatant abuse. The realistically tragic part about it is that Carley, like so many kids, doesn’t realize she deserves more. She even assumes the Murphys are mocking her or trying to pull one over on her because their love and affection seems so unnatural to Carley. As Carley comes to terms with her mother’s actions and her situation, she begins to see other families’ dysfunctions and compromises. She learns the value of honesty and sharing oneself with others as a means to connection and hope.

Julie Murphy is a silent, immovable force of acceptance in this book. It’s not just the love that she gives Carley that is so important but the message she transmits with her words and actions (over and over again) that Carley IS ok. That being Carley is ok in and of itself and that there’s nothing she needs to do to earn or deserve the acceptance or love of those who are important to her. Julie’s own history provides this wisdom, and her determination to make a difference for Carley and launch her into believing in her own LIFE is bittersweet. She knows it must be done and knows that the right outcome could be even harder than the path that brought Carley into the Murphys lives.

An easy read with memorable characters, a poignant ending, and a fantastic message, One for the Murphys has something for everyone.

SIMILAR TITLES: See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles, Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff, A Corner of the Universe by Ann M. Martin

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Review: The Disappearance of Emily H.

The Disappearance of Emily H.
The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie Summy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book starts off with an interesting premise – a girl who can “read” other people’s memories. Originally, I thought it would be like A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd complete with gypsy lifestyle and character searching for the answer to her gift. The story quickly takes a darker turn as Raine learns that she’s living in the house of a missing girl. As a fan of fantasy, I prefer magical realism over strict realistic fiction. Raine’s memory ability is unique in the way it manifests for her with the added bonus of being an integral part of the story without taking over the focus of the narrative.

Summy does a good job of making Raine a character with depth but who doesn’t seem too mature or wise for her age. Too many times, authors give unearned and unrealistic sagacity to 13 year-old characters. Raine’s solution to her bullying problem is still a middle school solution and her decisions to keep things from the adults in her life ring true.

The most intriguing thing about the story is its eerily realistic situation. Jennifer and the Mean Girls terrorize Raine and her friend until they become shadows of themselves. Raine and Shirlee make some ill-advised decisions in trying to deal with the bullies. Michael is a creepily dangerous guy who is flying under the town’s radar. And, thankfully, the mild romantic element of the book doesn’t take over the plot. Raine is trying to decide if she’s interested in romance as many 8th graders do.

Overall, a great story and one I would recommend to anyone looking for a light mystery.

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