Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Round-Up

I had every intention of keeping up with my monthly round-ups, but, oh, what a busy summer it has been! Along with the annual summer reading madness, I've also been collaborating with fellow 2016 Geisel Award Committee members Amanda Foulk and Misti Tidman to create the new mock Geisel Award blog, Guessing Geisel. Launched in June, this blog was created as a place to celebrate and discuss beginning readers and the Geisel Award. We have a wonderful roster of guest bloggers who have so generously offered their time and expertise. I hope you'll check it out! Now onto the round-up!

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Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor 
Viking Books, 2011
Sunny, an albino Nigerian-American living in Nigeria, learns that she has magical abilities and that she’s really one of the enigmatic Leopard People. As she studies and practices her craft, she becomes part of a tightly knit quartet of friends--flirtatious and powerful Chichi, impulsive, African-American Sasha, and quiet Orlu. Sunny’s life takes another twist when it’s revealed that she and her friends are destined to combat the sinister serial killer Black Hat Otokoto. Fascinating spells, a magical world, and loyal friends make this a wonderful Harry Potter readalike.

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As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2016
Quiet and observant African-American eleven-year-old Genie and his brash fourteen-year-old brother Ernie are less than excited to be spending the summer at their grandparents' house in rural Virginia. As Genie learns more about his resourceful Grandma and blind Grandpop, he also learns what it means to be brave and that sometimes the brave thing is to say no. Strong writing and laugh out loud funny, yet heartbreakingly real characters are at the center of this not-to-be-missed intergenerational story. A wonderful recommendation for fans of One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago.

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Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock 
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016
Set in 1860 this is the story of two sets of red-haired twins, a missing father, a nefarious pirate captain, and a seafaring voyage from New York City to San Francisco via the treacherous Cape Horn. The first set of twins, Alexander and Cleopatra (Patrick when disguised as a boy), have been given a mysterious watch and knife by their now missing father. Their lives become intertwined with the second set of twins, Silas and Edwin, as all four children struggle to survive. The first in the Four Points series, this historical fiction graphic novel is full of non-stop adventures. Although it can be difficult to tell the twins apart in some illustrations, is this just a tiny flaw in this rip roaring story. The second book, Knife's Edge, is set to be published in June, 2017.

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Gertie’s Leap to Greatness by Kate Beasley 
(Reviewed based on an advance reader’s copy)
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016
Energetic and determined Gertie Reece Foy lives in a small Alabama town with her father and her Great-Aunt Rae, and is best friends with loyal Junior Jr. and class genius Jean. Gertie enters fifth grade with a mission, and she never fails at a mission. She’s going to give the best ever class speech about her summer, and then everyone will see she’s “the greatest fifth grader in the whole school, world, and universe!” And that’s just phase one! It’s all part of a plan to show Gertie’s birth mother how amazing Gertie is and how much she doesn’t need a mother. Unfortunately, the new school year brings a new instantly popular girl, Mary Sue Spivey. Soon Gertie and Mary Sue are locked in a battle to be the best. Who will win? Fans of Pennypacker’s Clementine, Turnage’s Three Times Lucky, and The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron will find a new friend in spunky, never-give-up Gertie.