I wrote a book!

Remember the book A Wonderful Year by Nick Bruel?  Me neither.  It was the first book I reviewed on this blog on February 20, 2015, and I don’t think I’ve looked at it since.

Three days later I posted a review for The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, a book I still book talk many times a year and count among my favorite books of all times.

That’s the way it goes with reading.  Some books are just more memorable than others.

So when I realized that I’ve published almost 1,400 reviews, I decided it was time to do some weeding.  In a week or so, I’m going to take down the reviews from 2015 and 2016.  In preparation for this,  I’ve gone through all the books I’ve written about and picked out the ones I feel have stood the test of time.

I’ve compiled them into a book called Hit the Books: The Best of Kids Book A Day, 2015-2018.  There are about 150 books included; each entry has the summary I wrote on my blog and why it was included on the list.  They’re divided into eight sections: picture books, early readers, early chapter books, middle grade fiction, graphic novels, poetry, biography, and nonfiction.

I also put together ten lists of “Read-Alikes” from the books I’ve reviewed on the blog.  So if you have a fan of Diary of A Wimpy Kid or Raina Telgemeier, you can get some ideas for other books they might want to try.

Let me know if you find this book helpful.  Who knows, I may put together a second edition in another year or two!

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Nikki On the Line by Barbara Carroll Roberts

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Nikki dreams of playing high school basketball, and making the elite eighth grade team Action is an important step toward that goal.  Moving to the next level proves difficult for her, though, since she’s one of the shortest girls on the team and no longer playing point guard. When she overhears her teammate’s father calling her “a black hole on the basketball court”, she loses her confidence, and with it, her joy in playing the game.  A fight with her best friend, a new boy in her life, and some discoveries about her absent father all lead her to a new determination to re-create herself on and off the court. Her coach’s advice, “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do” finally inspires her to focus on her strengths on the court that allow her to help her team to victory.  336 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  In her debut novel, Barbara Carroll Roberts has created a character readers will root for from beginning to end.  There’s plenty of sports action, too, and several interesting subplots.

Cons:  Nikki’s mom finally came through in the end, but for much of the story she seemed clueless at best and at worst, unsupportive of her daughter’s passion.  And the teammate’s dad who made the black hole comment was awful with nothing to make him the least bit sympathetic.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Focused by Alyson Gerber

Published by Scholastic Press

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Summary:  Clea’s managed to do okay in school until she hits seventh grade.  This year she’s more aware than ever of how her racing thoughts, distractibility, and tendency to blurt out whatever she’s thinking are affecting her at school, both academically and socially.  Her parents and teachers have noticed, too, and after a few failed assignments, they decide to get her tested for ADHD. Her diagnosis both scares and relieves Clea. As she begins to better understand how her brain works, she learns to ask for help when she needs it and use new strategies to help her succeed.  Clea’s passion is chess, and staying on the team motivates her to do well in school. With support from her friends, family, and counselors, Clea seems well on her way to success going forward. 304 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Readers who have been diagnosed with ADHD, or know someone who has, will find this book enlightening and comforting.  Learning to ask for help and being kind to yourself are themes that will resonate with everyone.

Cons:  The seventh grade kids seemed preternaturally adept at dealing with their emotions and conflicts with one another.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Operation Frog Effect by Sarah Scheerger

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

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Summary:  Eight fifth graders tell about the first half of the year through journal entries to their teacher, Ms Graham.  There is friendship drama, a budding romance, a boy who is threatened with homelessness, and a girl from Mexico who worries about being deported. Some of the kids write letters for their journal entries, while one writes all his in the form of a screenplay, and another draws his as wordless comics.  Their initial connection is through the class pet, Kermit the frog, but soon they are bonding through the social action projects their teacher initiates. When one of those projects leads four of the kids to do something dangerous, Ms. Graham is the one who gets in trouble and is threatened with losing her job.  The kids put their social action lessons to work to find a way to help their teacher and make a difference in their community, resulting in a deepening of friendships and a happy ending for all. 320 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Fans of the Mr. Terupt books or Fish In a Tree will enjoy this uplifting school story with multiple perspectives and writing types.  Inspired readers can find resources at the end to help them learn more about how they can make a difference.

Cons:  Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be time in real life to do all the cool community-building activities and service projects that Ms. Graham’s class gets to do.  After the kids’ victory, a school board member comments, “I hope you all stay engaged for our next topic, which has to do with standardized testing.” Now, that’s realistic.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

Published by Scholastic Press

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Summary:  Emma’s been homeschooled all her life, but when her brother starts high school, she starts feeling left behind, and decides to go to public school for fifth grade.  The night before she’s starting school, her game warden father gets a call about a rabbit that’s stuck in a fence. Emma goes along for the rescue, and ends up falling in love with the rabbit, a tame former pet, whom she names Lapin.  School gets off to a rough start: Emma gets paired with Jack, a boy with autism, for a class project, and starts to worry that her association with him will prevent her from making other friends.  But she has a kind heart, and with the help of her family and Lapin, she figures out a way to help Jack while navigating the uncertain waters of fifth grade friendships. Includes an author’s note explaining where her inspirations for different elements of the story came from, and encouraging readers to draw on their own life experiences for their writing.  192 pages; grades 3-5.

Pros:  Cynthia Lord has written another winning middle grade novel that would make an excellent read-aloud or book club book.  Emma is an honest and caring narrator, and readers will relate to her experiences at school. Lapin’s appearance on the cover will make this book irresistible, and kids will enjoy Lord’s nonfiction Borrowing Bunnies for more information on pet rabbits.

Cons:  The ending wrapped things up a bit too neatly.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman

Published by Nancy Paulsen Books

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Summary:  Vijji tells Rukku the story of their lives: how Vijji had always taken care of the developmentally disabled Rukku even though Rukku was the older sister.  How Vijji decided they had to run away the night their father beat them instead of their mother. How they found a new home under a bridge with two boys, Muthi and Arul, who showed them how to make money ragpicking and became like family to them.  Although the four lived in miserable poverty, they managed to have good times together until Rukku and Muthi got sick from malnutrition, bad water, and mosquito-borne disease. A chance encounter with a woman running a home for street children gave Vijji opportunities she never dreamed she would have had, and, despite tragedy, she learns to move ahead with hope.  Includes an author’s note with additional information about her personal experiences with homeless children in India. 208 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  I’m guessing this beautifully-written story will be considered for some award next January.  Readers will learn about the plight of countless children in India while getting to know some unforgettable characters.

Cons (spoiler alert):  With Eventown and Right As Rain, this makes the third book I’ve read in the span of a few weeks that deals with a child grieving the loss of a sibling. I am ready for something a bit lighter.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy

Published by Feiwel and Friends

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Summary:  On page 1, Riley has just entered a treatment program for her anorexia, and has started a journal to record her experiences.  During the next 53 days, she slowly and painfully looks at what got her there: her perfectionism; a gymnast sister with a “perfect” body; parents who don’t always listen or try to understand the implications of their actions.  Riley makes a new friend, reconciles with her old friends who have been hurt by her eating disorder, and rediscovers her passion for drawing and art. She describes therapy sessions and some of the drama with the other girls in the program.  By day 53, she’s ready to go home again, fearful of a relapse, but hopeful that she has acquired the tools to stand up for herself and do what’s best to keep herself healthy. 272 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Anyone who has ever had to deal with an inner critic or feeling not good enough will relate to Riley’s struggles as learns how to be kind to herself and tell people around her how she is feeling and what she needs.  Jen Petro-Roy has also written a nonfiction book (published simultaneously with this one) called You Are Enough: Your Guide to Body Image and Eating Disorder Recovery.

Cons:  I was extremely frustrated by Riley’s parents who seemed unwilling to even look at any behaviors that might have led to their daughter’s eating disorder.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.