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Notes from the Dog

Notes from the Dog

Notes from the Dog

Finn has a plan for his summer vacation. He is going to stay home with his dog, read, and talk to as few people as possible. In fact, he has made it a goal to talk to fewer than a dozen people the whole summer. People stress Finn out and after a whole school year, he’s had it.

But Finn makes an exception for his new neighbor Johanna. She’s a college girl, she’s friendly, she’s beautiful. She’s also completely bald. They day they meet she explains, “I lost my hair during chemo.” And the conversation that follows is nothing like Finn would have expected. It’s honest, but it isn’t awkward. Johanna declares that she wants Finn’s signature in her notebook. He wants to know why.

Because everyday in my journal I write down the best thing that’s happened to me. Today it’s you. When Johanna said that, I felt light, warm in that spot just above my stomach where it usually fells clenched and tight.

This is a really terrific story about a friendship that a person didn’t expect. Johanna, who seems to need so much help and support, ends up providing those things to Finn…making both of their lives better and more fun as a result. Johanna shows Finn that limiting yourself to just 12 people in a whole summer is clearly not nearly enough. Author: Gary Paulsen

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The Cupcake Queen

The Cupcake Queen

The Cupcake QueenManhattan born Penny finds herself transplanted for the summer to tiny Hog’s Hollow, New York right before her Freshman year. This is the Hog’s Hollow where they actually crown a Hog Queen. Penny figures she’ll just lay low and wait it out. At the end of the summer she’ll return to her friends and her real life in Manhattan.

But Penny’s mom has a different plan. She decides to stay in Hog’s Hollow and open up a bakery, which puts Penny’s Freshman year at Hog’s Hollow High School. It also makes Penny wonder about her family. Her Dad is still in New York. How is this going to work?

…I kept thinking about what my dad had said. Everything was going to be fine. And I realized maybe that’s all we can hope for from life: fine. Not happy, not good, but just fine. And in my case “fine” is an acronym for Freakin’ Irrational Nightmare Existence.

When Penny helps her mom deliver cupcakes to the birthday party of the most popular girl in Hog’s Hollow, she is witness to a mishap involving the refreshment table and the birthday girl, who happens to be standing next to it.

She ends up wearing a dozen or more cupcakes like a hat while half a dozen more slide slowly down the front of her dress.

Miss Popular decides to blame Penny and is determined to make Penny’s life at school living misery. One prank after another leaves Penny felling humiliated, angry and lonely. Enter Tally, an independent free-spirit who cooks up a plan to exact some justice for all the humiliation Penny has endured. “Trust me,” she says. Penny does, and this begins a friendship that just might save Penny from her Freakin’ Irrational Nightmare Existence. And the cute guy on the beach with the dog named Sam, he might help too.

This is a great story about a kid negotiating changes in life that are beyond her control and coming to grips with how she is going to react to those changes. Sometimes grownups make choices, and the kids just have to deal with it. Penny’s friend Tally brings self-confidence and comedy to an otherwise difficult situation. Tally brings the idea of possibilities to Penny. Penny is so focused on the things she has lost, she almost misses some wonderful things that are right in front of her face… like new friends and the cute guy on the beach with the dog named Sam. Author: Heather Hepler

This one gets two thumbs up from blog commenter Foo: If you like stories about romance and friendship and school drama you should totally check out “The Cupcake Queen” or “Forget me not.” They are both very good.

If you like The Cupcake Queen here are some more books about kids like Penny who face the changes that happen in their lives with a little anger, a little anxiety, a little humor and with some good friends…just like in real life.
Every Soul a Star Operation Yes My Life in Pink and Green The Beef Princess of Practical County
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The Books of Umber: Dragon Games

The Books of Umber: Dragon Games

Happenstance FoundIn The Books of Umber Book 1: Happenstance Found, Lord Umber found a boy with no memory. There were unusual things about the boy besides his startlingly green eyes. For one, he never slept. Ever. He could see in the dark and he could jump high…Superman high.

In this second adventure, Lord Umber has taken the boy, Happenstance or Hap, as his ward. That means Lord Umber is Hap’s guardian since his parents and family are unknown. Lord Umber is determined to find out who Hap is and where he came from. He also wants to know more about Hap’s unusual abilities.

Hap loves his new life living in Lord Umber’s castle and he loves his new friends there. There is a library and extraordinary things for Hap to study that Lord Umber has collected in his travels. It’s taking longer, though, for Hap to get used to Lord Umber himself. In the same way that Hap takes comfort in home and desires the routines of a household where he can study and explore, Lord Umber desires reckless adventure. Once his curiousity sets in there is no stopping Lord Umber from finding out what he wants to know, no matter the cost or danger to himself, or the people around him. It’s exciting to be around Lord Umber, but scary too!

Lord Umber receives an invitation to a neighboring kingdom to attend dragon games.  Umber can hardly contain his excitement. What are dragon games? Could there possibly be REAL dragons involved? Lord Umber thinks so and he doesn’t want left out of the action. Umber reminds me a lot of Han Solo only he travels the sea on a ship instead of hurtling through space in a spaceship. Lord Umber is always on the lookout for mythical monsters and magical things that most people think are the stuff of legends and stories.  To see an actual dragon is something he just can’t pass up. Hap is not so excited about leaving on another adventure and neither is Lord Umber’s right hand man Oates. Here is what Oates thinks about Lord Umber and this new adventure:

You’re reckless. You can’t find a beehive without wanting to stick your hand inside. You want to discover things, and you don’t care if you risk our lives along the way. I think one of these days you’ll get one of us killed.

Oates can be so straight with his boss because he just can’t help it. He lives under a curse that requires him to always tell the truth! Lord Umber brushes off all the concerns and the ship sails straight into the unknown, just the way Lord Umber likes it.  In no time the companions are caught up in wild and fantastic adventures involving sea monsters, talking spiders, miniature creatures with gnashing teeth, spewing volcanoes, betrayal within a royal family and yes, dragons! The question is, will this adventure get them any closer to finding out Hap’s true identity? Author: P.W. Catanese

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Cosmic

Cosmic

Cosmic

Liam is taller than average. Much taller. In fact he’s so tall he often gets mistaken for an adult, which can be annoying when you’re only twelve. Liam gets really tired of hearing, “You should know better, big lad like you.”

On the other hand, it can come in really handy, like when you need a chaperone. Liam enters a contest to win a trip to a new amusement park in China. To claim the prize he wins, Liam has to impersonate his own father and takes along his friend Florida as his “kid.”

At the amusement park Liam has to act like a dad. What does that mean? Florida, for one, thinks he needs a few tips. 

“Get me presents, and ice cream; don’t sit there telling me about history and stuff.”

And don’t even try telling her what to do, afterall, Liam isn’t a REAL Dad.

“D’you know what time it is? Isn’t it a bit late for ice cream?” “It would be if you were a real dad. But you’re not. You’re a kid. I’m a kid. We can do what we want. If we want ice cream for supper, we can have ice cream for supper.” “And if we want to watch TV all night, ” she said, “we can.” “Yeah, but –” “Not ‘Yeah, but.’ Just ‘Yeah.'”

When the ultimate thrill ride at the park turns out to be a real rocket, Florida and the other kid contest winners are trained for the inaugural flight. Liam is chosen to be the one adult chaperone allowed on the rocket. Why is Liam chosen? For his “kid like qualities” of course!

When an accident sends the rocket hurtling through space, the kids turn to the only grownup they’ve got, Liam, to lead them back to earth. The situation sends Liam scrambling to answer the question “what would a dad do?” Liam gets a crash course in “dadliness”. It turns out it isn’t much about buying presents and supplying ice cream and telling kids when to go to bed! Author: Frank Cottrell Boyce

Cosmic Web Comic Used With Permission:

cosmic-web-comic

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Return to Sender

Return to Sender

Return to Sender

Tyler lives on a dairy farm in Vermont. When his dad is injured in a tractor accident the family can no longer keep up with the work. Tyler’s dad decides to hire migrant workers to save the farm from foreclosure.  (A migrant worker is a worker that travels from place to place getting work on farms harvesting crops that are in season. In the US, migrant workers are often from Mexico.)

The Cruz family moves to the farm and the men begin working on the farm. The kids go to Tyler’s school. One girl, Mari, is in Tyler’s class. The two kids find that they have a lot in common, mostly, worrying about their families.

When Tyler discovers that the Cruz’s are undocumented workers, he’s confused. Would his dad do something illegal?  What is so illegal about the Cruz’s working to help out his family? When the authorities raid the farm and take the Cruz men to jail, Tyler is as confused as ever. He and his family have spent a year building a friendship with Mari and her family and the rules don’t make any sense. The Cruz’s definitey don’t belong in jail, but where do they belong? Should they stay, or do they have to go? If they go, what will happen to the farm?

This is a really personal look at the life of migrant families and the choices and dangers they face. I really liked Meeting Mari and her family. She helped me understand what would motivate a family to risk living in the US illegally. Author: Julia Alvarez; Award: Pura Belpre Author Award 2010

  • Listen to Julia Alvarez Read from Return to Sender
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