Checked by Cynthia Kadohata

Published by Atheneum

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Summary:  Conor’s life is all about hockey, his dog, and his dad.  During the year he turns 12, he rises from a peewee AA team to AAA and learns what it’s like to go from being the best on the team to struggling to keep up.  In addition to team practices and games, he does intensive exercise routines and gets private coaching, all of which is a financial strain for his policeman father who made it to the NHL for three weeks and hopes for a professional career for his son.  When Conor’s beloved Doberman Sinbad is diagnosed with cancer, Conor is forced to decide between some of his hockey extras and Sinbad’s $7,000 treatment.  During the course of the year, Conor is also forced to deal with some of his feelings about his maternal grandparents, who moved away after his mom died but now want to be back in his life.  By the end of the book, Connor has developed a greater understanding and compassion for those around him and taken a big step forward in the process of growing up.  404 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  Hockey fans and dog lovers will enjoy this slice-of-life story of approximately a year in Conor’s life.  He is a positive and resilient kids with a distinctive voice and caring heart.

Cons:  400+ pages is a lot for a story that tends to meander without any big climactic punch.

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I Am Loved: A Poetry Collection by Nikki Giovanni, illustrations by Ashley Bryan

Published by Atheneum

Summary:  In 11 short poems, Nikki Giovanni expresses love, both for the reader and for the simple everyday pleasures surrounding him or her.  Wildflowers, cats, and quilts are all celebrated.  In “No Heaven”, she asks how there can be no heaven when there is so much to appreciate all around.  “A Song of Blackbird” looks at how we describe people and remember them when they’re gone.  “I Am a Mirror” comes with a mylar mirror for the reader to reflect on, and mentions the auction block and middle passage.  The final poem, “Do the Rosa Parks” is a catchy song that encourages readers to sit down with those who are suffering and stand up to injustice.  32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Award winners Giovanni and Bryan team up for a perfect introduction to poetry for the youngest readers, illustrated in Bryan’s trademark colorful folk-inspired paintings.

Cons:  The mylar mirror may not survive repeated library use.

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