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Archive for the category “Fourteen and Up”

A Child’s First Book of Trump

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When I first saw the publisher of this book holding it up for all to see on Facebook I had a very scary moment when I thought perhaps Justin Chanda had gone over to the dark side. Thankfully his feet are fully on the side of the light and this book is priceless. Written by the actor/comedian Michael Ian Black in a Seuss-like rhyme pattern, the Trump is a rare species out in the wild. This book, then, is the field guide to tracking the wild Trump. Of course, it’s not terribly difficult because the Trump will run towards any TV camera he happens to see. This is a hilarious parody. An excerpt:

“The beasty is called an American Trump.

It’s skin is bright orange, its figure is plump;

Its fur so complex, you might get enveloped.

Its hands are, sadly, underdeveloped.”

And just look at that cover illustration – a perfect match for the topic and tone. Remember, this is a parody and, as such, is aimed at adults for the most part. You have got to check it out!

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100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

In an attempt to read all the books from the National Book Award long list, I have just finished 100 Sideways Miles. From the flap copy I wasn’t sure that I was going to like it. A teen thinks he just might be caught in his father’s science fiction novel? Generally not my taste. But that goes to show how sticking to the safe books can mean missing out on a lot of those quirky, risky (and wonderful) novels.

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And this one is very quirky and also hilariously funny. Finn, our protagonist and also the protagonist in his father’s book, is 16 going on 17 who has a best friend named Cade. Cade is legendary for things, well, best not said. 🙂 He’s a star athlete and says exactly what is on his mind whenever it comes into his mind. No filter there! Finn is kind of a loner and that’s likely down to his epilepsy. Ever since the accident that killed his mom and injured him (did I mention a dead horse fell on them? I told you it was quirky!), he has suffered with seizures. Smith writes them so that we can see, feel, and almost touch them. They’re that wild. But Julia, the new girl in school, sees beyond that and despite the  damage they both bring to their relationship, they begin seeing each other all the time.

Cade and Finn set off on a road trip to visit a college in Oklahoma and it is on that trip that Finn begins to see that he is not predestined by his father’s book; he is Finn the friend, boyfriend, son, protagonist of his own story. Despite all the wild and crazy trappings, this is a coming of age book. It’s deeply satisfying to see Finn come out of the whole experience all in one piece.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

I visited Russia last summer and got to see firsthand the opulence in which Nicholas and Alexandra lived their lives. Of course, they were so isolated from the people they were governing that the widespread starvation and deprivation went unnoticed by them. Sound ripe for rebellion? Candace Fleming has outdone herself with this book – and that’s saying something!

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The cover photo is such a lovely portrait of the Tsar and his family. Not too long after this photo was taken the whole family came to a horrific end. Stories and lore have sprung up around this family since their deaths in 1918 due, in part, to the secrecy around their deaths. The family had been exiled to a remote village the year before and it was there, after some time, they were executed. In Fleming’s book we learn how they were killed, where they were buried, how they were found, and where they were finally buried. All but two of them, that is. It seemed two of the girls were missing. Did they escape? Did Anastasia get away and live her life in another country?

This book is an extraordinary story and it is done justice here. Not all non-fiction is written truly as a story but Fleming is the master of that. All of her books read beautifully. This one is especially marvelous because all th elements of a good read are there: murder, intrigue, power, and well-drawn characters. And all of it is true. Teachers who cover Russian history, this is the book for you.

Oh, and how about Rasputin? Holy man or scoundrel? You’ll be able to tell one from the other once you have read this book. It’s the best non-fiction I have read so far this year.

A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller

I loved this book! If you’re looking for a good YA novel (this one is historical fiction) you need to look no further. Set in London in the Edwardian era (1909), this book centers around the class system in England at that time. Victoria Darling has just come of age (all of 17 years) and is keen to become the artist she was meant to be. Off she goes to France to study art but when she poses nude her uptight family brings her home straightaway and demands that she give up this nonsense. Unwilling to give up her dreams, Vickie surreptitiously slips out of the house to pursue her craft. It’s there she comes face to face with women struggling for the vote and this coddled protagonist begins to realize the strict parameters of her life. Everything depends upon the men in her life who control everything she does. She meets and falls in love with Will, a policeman and therefore lower class, but decides that she has to accept an arranged marriage instead because this man has assured her that she can attend the Royal College of Art if she gets in. Without telling anyone, Vickie applies and gets in which is saying something given she is a woman.  So what happens? Will she follow her heart or be somewhat heartless and marry for money? You’ll have to read to find out but you’ll enjoy every minute of the reading, I promise you.

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This book is brilliantly done in audio, by the way. You just can’t stop listening even though you have to get out of the car! The story is great and the narrator is superb. Check this book and/or audio out and enjoy the read!

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

ImageLeonard Peacock is a smart but disenfranchised high school student whose home life is even worse than his school life. His one-hit-wonder rock and roll father has left the family and mom has virtually done the same thing. She has left Leonard in their big house with a credit card at his disposal while she chases her own dreams in the big city. Leonard’s only tether to this world is his teacher whose class on the Holocaust challenges his students to think deeply about right and wrong. Leonard has been bullied by his childhood friend, Asher, ever since a pivotal experience turns Asher inside out. Leonard has now decided to end his own life after he gives the bully his due. The story rings true and the inner thoughts of Leonard as he approaches his own personal D-Day, although muddled, are completely believable.

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

OUT OF THE EASY BY RUTA SEPETYS (PENGUIN, 2013)

Josie has grown up in New Orleans, the daughter of a prostitute who could not care less about her. But Josie is smart and intent on making something of herself. Just as she starts dreaming of applying to Smith College, her world turns upside down. A man she met briefly in the bookstore where she works is found dead, her mother takes off with a low life criminal, and Josie is left to make sense of it all. This is a great portrait of the shady underbelly of 1950 New Orleans and a young girl who wants more than anything to put it in her past.

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