Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Ghost Boys will be a book you will not soon forget. This book is heartbreaking it is a story about bullies, racism, and death of 12 year old boy. But it is also a story of family, friendship and hope. Jerome is a 12 year old African American boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago, who is bullied at school because he follows the
rules and is a good kid. A new boy Carlos, moves in and Jerome feels bad for him because he also becomes the object of the bullies. Carlos has something that keeps the bullies away—a gun—which the bullies believe is real. Jerome is intrigued with the power of that toy and takes it out to play—but that toy becomes a real weapon in a police officer’s eyes.
Jerome is dead and this is his story—of what it is like to be dead—how the families grieve, how the kids at school respond and how the officer responds—responds to killing a kid.
Jerome can only watch from afar except he can communicate with one person—the 12 year daughter of the police officer that shot him, Sarah. This is where the story gets very complicated—Sarah doesn’t know only she can hear Jerome and Jerome is angry that it is only her that he can communicate with.
Then an added layer happens in this book—Jerome meets other boys that were killed—these Ghost Boys are led by Emmitt Till. Emmitt Till a 14 year old African American who was severely beaten and hanged for “supposedly offending a white women” back in 1955. This historical fiction gives the reader some perspective on just how long children have been dying because of their race.
This book will move you, and you to will want to make the world better place for all of us!
Long Way Down
By Jason Reynolds
Grades 9 and Up
Okay, I was looking for a riveting YA novel—found it! It is a story written in verse that does not short change the reader. I felt I was there in the elevator with Will—all the way down! Will is 15 years old and lives in a community that dictates the social norms or “the rules.” This is a world which is foreign to me and so I was immediately drawn in.
Will’s brother Shawn has just been murdered, his mom is inconsolable and as Shawn tries to sleep that night he can think of nothing but “the rules.” Rules, like no crying, no snitching and take revenge. Will ponders the rules, gets up, gets the gun and is ready to avenge his brother’s death. He gets on the elevator and on each floor the elevator stops and “someone” gets on and shares their story of how they “followed the rules.” Each story connects to the next until he hears from his brother. When the elevator opens Will comes face to face with—choice.
I think this book is best suited for high school students—language and the intensity of the story. I know I wanted more at the end—but it just made go find another Jason Reynolds book!
Author Website: http://www.jasonwritesbooks.com/
Train I Ride
By Paul Mosier
New York: Harper, 2017.
Genre: Realistic Fiction Pages 181 Grades 5 and Up
I loved, loved this story. It is one of heart and heartbreak, aloneness but not loneliness. This is the story of twelve year old Rydr as she is headed from California to Chicago on an Amtrak Train with a special box, her backpack and no money (she blew it all in the station before she left). She is alone but not really alone. She has to be accompanied by a train matron who is assigned to minors who are traveling alone without a parent or an adult. That’s where the story begins—Rydr’s grandmother died while she was caring for her in California—it seems she was the logical choice to pick to care for after her mother died. Rydr was just settling in at school (kind of) and was beginning to make great strides with her therapist when her grandmother suddenly died. Although, Rydr was not happy living with gramma she knew that she would always be there for her—unlike her drug addicted mother. Rydr’s meets people aboard this train that the reader will soon not forget. This is a timely coming of age story filled with compassion, kindness, hope, forgiveness and love.
Maxi’s Secrets (Or, What You Can Learn From a Dog)
By Lynn Plourde
New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2016.
Genre: Realistic Fiction Grades: 5-7 Pages 262
This is a wonderful heartwarming story about a very short boy, his neighbor who is blind and his dog who is deaf. Timminy, the short boy is bullied at his new school, his neighbor Abby is confident and a confidant and Maxi; is the adorable and loveable puppy. Like many of my readers, I hate sad dog books and this book opens with, “Let’s get this part over with—it’s no secret. My dog, Maxi dies.” I am not sure that really prepares me for when it happens in the book (it did not because I sobbed for a couple of minutes) but I knew the lessons like–#51 “Best friends are forever friends. They make you laugh and cry and laugh some more—even the ones who have moved on.”–would definitely make this story touch my heart and it did!
By Karen Rivers
New York: Algonquin Young Readers, 2017.
Genre: Realistic Fiction Grades: 5 and Up Pages: 279
Mischa is twelve years old, has two older “normal” sisters and her parents might just call her peculiar. Ish, as she is known by family and friends, wants nothing more than to be the first human to live on Mars. She is okay with being up their alone and can deal with the possibility of never coming back as long as she can be the first. First is important to Ish because she has always felt slightly inferior—even when she was adopted she felt her sister was chosen (because she is so adorable) and Ish was just the plain looking little sister who was just part of the package. Ish does not make friends easily; she does not have a sense of humor, often has headaches and is not materialistic. She had a best friend named Tig, who said they would always be friends no matter what but he moved away and she has not heard from him since. Now a nerdy kid has moved into his house; she is hopeful that he might be a friend until the first day of school when he makes fun of her! Then her headaches get worse until one day when she has a seizure and wets her pants right at school. All the kids laugh at her wetting herself. It was that time she is whisked off to the hospital and Ish’s life changes forever. Karen Rivers writes a heart wrenching story about friends, family and making sure you always stay right with the world. Never let a day pass when you do not right all your wrongs.
By Karen Harrington
New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
Grades 5 and Up Realistic Fiction 344 Pages
Wayne Kovok is fact nerd! He loves to collect facts and whenever there is a lull in the conversation or when he gets anxious and doesn’t know what to say—he spouts out a fact! Now many might think him odd but not Sandy Showalter, the prettiest girl in his middle school—they actually went out!
Wayne tells the story in two parts—before and after. Before—when his divorced mom, retired drill sergeant grandfather who often is very critical of Wayne, and his Uncle Reed are out to lunch. They are all getting together before Uncle Reed gets deployed for the fourth time and life returns to normal.
Then there was a tragic event that makes Wayne get on a plane and on the return to home flight–the after begins. After—the plane crash. During a storm, a back part of their airplane comes apart leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane. The pilot was able to crash land the plane and some survived; including Wayne and his mother. Wayne suffered a crushed windpipe and a large “L” shaped gash across his face. Wayne was left feeling a loser with survivors remorse, unable to speak and spout off facts. To make things worse his granddad moves in to help out and his estranged father continues to try and establish a relationship with Wayne.
You will not be disappointed in this story about family relationships and healing both physically and emotionally.
Not As We Know It
By Tom Avery
New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.
Grades 5 and Up Realistic Fiction 159 Pages
Ned and Jamie are twins but they don’t look much alike. Jamie is tall and healthy and Ned smaller and suffers with cystic fibrosis. This is a condition that causes recurrent lung infections which over time causes the lungs to fail. Ned’s breathing is getting worse day by day.
Mom decides to home school the boys to keep Ned away from other germs, granddad, a retired seaman, who teaches the boys geography and shares folktales from his time at sea. These tales include stories of merpeople and of other creatures great and small with mystical powers. Ned and Jamie love to take adventures along the seashore where they live which includes taking in treasures they find along the way and daydreaming about granddads stories. After a good storm and Ned feeling pretty good, the boys go off and find a treasure that both feel confident will change their lives. A creature that looks half human and half fish—they name him Leonard and store him secretly in the garage until it mends. Find out if this creature holds some mystical power that can fulfill both boys hopes and dreams.
A story that will touch your heart for sure!
By Lauren Wolk
New York: Dutton Children’s Book, 2016.
Pages 291 Grades: 5 and Up Genre: Historical Fiction
This was a fabulous story about eleven-year-old Annabelle whose family are farmers and live out in the country during World War II. Annabelle gets up does her chores, goes to school and comes home and finishes her chores—a rather quiet existence until Betty Glengarry moves in with her grandparents. Betty is like your worst nightmare—a mean, mean bully! The local vagabond, Toby, steps into save Annabelle from Betty and befriends Annabelle. Toby is what we call today homeless veteran of WW I who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Annabelle’s mom says that he is odd and to keep her distance—even though she herself often sends food to him. A friendship grows between Toby and Annabelle and Betty begins to become more violent and blames the terrible things that are happening on Toby. It is hard for the people of Wolf Hollow to understand what is happening and Annabelle is having difficulty expressing herself and so begins a web of deceit—she begins to lie. Come along on this action packed historical novel as Annabelle tries to find courage to speak up for what is right!