THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart: Heartwarming Story for Tweens and Early Adolescents. . .and their Parents and Teachers

February 21, 2020

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart

Some of the most compelling stories have at their heart a metaphorical journey, or a quest.  Coyote Sunrise’s hero quest is literal:  she and her father Rodeo are traveling from Florida to Washington state in their renovated school bus home-on-wheels.  Of course, the metaphorical side of their journey is also present.  Coyote and Rodeo are the only survivors of a horrific car accident that killed Coyote’s two sisters and her mother.  Since that tragic day five years ago, these two have been on the road, never looking back and never ever talking about the past.  (That’s one of Rodeo’s coping strategies, and a hard and fast rule, a “no-go.” ) But Coyote learns that a park where she and her sisters and mother buried a “memory box” is set to be demolished.  Coyote must travel thousands of miles in a few days and rescue the memory box–all without letting Rodeo know she (and their bus) are headed back to her original home.  Along the way, they pick up different travelers who join the adventure:  a gay teenager whose parents kicked her out, a young man traveling to reunite with his girlfriend, and a family of immigrants looking for work.  Oh, and the sweetest, smartest cat in the world, Ivan.

I put off reading this book since I bought it last summer.  Meghan read it right away–bingeing through it, with many a tear coming down her cheeks.  Though I often love a heart-tugging read, I put it off until just this week.  Big mistake!  I can only hope you don’t do the same.  It’s an award-winner and perfect family read, though of course, kids can read it on their own.  Here are some of the numerous accolades the book earned:

A 2019 Parents’ Choice Award Gold Medal Winner
Winner of the 2019 CYBILS Award for Middle Grade Fiction
An Amazon Top 20 Children’s Book of 2019
A Junior Library Guild Selection

Authenticity is a trait that shines  through all the characters, as well as their life experiences.  Beautiful writing and emotional depth are also characteristics of this fine book.  Highly recommended!


February 15, 2020

A couple of years ago, I heard about a new magazine for girls and I decided to give it a try for the girls in my life, family and friends alike.  KAZOO  is everything I hoped it would be, as you can tell from my rave review in the post “New Magazines for Girls.”   Fast forward to 2020, and I am a satisfied reader of Kazoo, and delighted to hold in my hands their new graphic collection:  Noisemakers:  25 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World. Whatever your passion (and those of the young people you know and love), you’ll find stellar role models:  activists, artists, scientists, explorers, chefs, and fascinating “Noisemakers” in lots of other creative endeavors.  Erin Bride, the Editor-in-Chief of Kazoo Magazine, writes in the foreword:  “The world is what it is today only because these Noisemakers dared to be strong, smart, fierce, and true to themselves.  And hopefully, just knowing they came before you will give you all the extra courage and strength you ever need to follow your own amazing path, no matter where it may lead.”  I quote her because it is so quintessentially “Kazoo”:  inspiring, and also including readers in the vision creators of the magazine are sharing.  I must admit, I am only half-way through the collection, but I am already relishing the artwork of the different artists, as well as the stories the cartoonists share.  Some are favorite role models, like Frida Kahlo and Nellie Bly, but others are fascinating new heroes, like Eugenie Clark, The Shark Whisperer, or Raye Montague, The Ship Designer.  Perfect timing for mid-winter inspiration and binge reading, especially for readers 8-13 years old (and their parents and teachers).


February 7, 2020

Point Blank (Alex Rider Adventure) Book 1 by Anthony Horowitz

Recently, we escaped the rain and cold of Portland for a visit with the twins in LA.  Ah, the warm sunshine!  And even better, the chance to talk books and learn young teen tips and advice.  We are now much better educated, for example, about K-Pop.  In preparation for the trip, we purchased some books we read and left there for them to read when they are caught up on the other series they are immersed in.  (“No hurry!” we insisted.) Because Jim and I are both loving all of Anthony Horowitz’s books (and TV scripts–check it out!), we decided to try his YA series about a teen spy.

So, we are confident in recommending the series for young teens and older teens as well (and maybe even adults).  Alex Rider is British and an orphan, and helps his uncle at times, an operative (well, spy) for MI-6.  The British version of the CIA don’t hesitate to draw him into dangerous and difficult cases, as this first in the series adventure attests.  Some mysterious deaths are connected with a prep school for super-rich ands troubled kids and MI-6 decides to send Alex undercover to find out what is going on.  It’s a little bit Stepford Wives, as the formerly rebellious kids become docile and obedient overnight.  And there is something eerily familiar about each kid. . .Luckily, Alex is able to discover what is behind these miracle transformations, but he needs to be ingenious, brave, and even rely on his fencing skills to get himself out of a jam.  I’m definitely hooked and ready to dig into more of the series.  Give it a try!

COUNTING BUGS AND BUTTERFLIES: INSECT ART by Christopher Marley and Zoe Burke: Wonderful New Board Book

January 25, 2020

COUNTING BUGS AND BUTTERFLIES by Christopher Marley and Zoe Burke

What to do on a dreary, rainy, raw January day in Portland, Oregon?  Head to an exhibit.  We love museums–science, art, whatever–and a trip to OMSI (Oregon Museum or Science and Industry) was just the right field trip to fire up our senses.  If you get the chance to view Christopher Marley’s Exquisite Creatures:  A Dialogue with Nature, Art, and Science, don’t pass it up.  It is a companion exhibit to Marley’s New York Times bestseller Biophelia  (literally, “love of living things”). The exhibit and the book are a thrilling and awe-inspiring tribute to the wonders of science and nature, relationships and patterns.

But what I (mostly) want to share with you in this post is the delightful board book to entice the youngest readers and their families into biophelia.  The construction is sturdy, as it needs to be; I imagine babies and toddlers immersed in the incredible images of bugs that look like jewels, butterfly wings that shimmer and glow, and an accessible rhyming text that helps readers and their parents interact with the words and images and count aspects of each page.  A delightful introduction to Marley’s work.  Enjoy!

And, to further entice you into Christopher Marley’s world: two samples from the exhibit, all created from bugs and butterflies (and other subjects) in an environmentally sensitive manner.  Marley has a worldwide network of people and institutions (such as aquariums) that help him honor these “exquisite creatures.” Read more about it in Biophelia.


January 21, 2020

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

Though I often delight in long-running series, I also find satisfaction in trilogies:  series with enough time to develop characters who grow and change as well as the depth that comes with more than a stand-alone.  Perhaps best of all for me is when the conclusion draws together the different plot points and holds some surprises as well as resolution, and a glimpse into the future of characters we have come to care about.  Holly Black’s The Folk of the Air Trilogy is just my cup of tea, it turns out.

We return to the drama of Jude’s life.  She is now an exiled mortal Queen of the Faerie–though no one around her knows.  Thus, she becomes the “Queen of Nothing.”  But Jude must return to the Faerie Court to try to rescue  her twin sister-and things are definitely changing as Elfame slips further and further into conflict.  But it is not just political treachery Jude must deal with.  She has yet to resolve her feelings for Cardan, especially in the wake of what she believes to be his betrayal.  But is it?

If you are like me, you will also delight in the character growth for Taryn and even Vivi.  Give it a read:  I think you’ll find the ending both surprising and satisfying.  What more could you ask of a trilogy?

And if this is a new YA series for you, you might want to read our review of The Cruel Prince, Book 1.



January 10, 2020

It’s Trevor Noah:  Born a Crime:  Stories From a South African Childhood (Adapted for Young Readers)

Last year, I read Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, and was so taken with it, I was recommending it to everyone I knew.  It turns out I had come across it a bit later than most of my friends and family, as most people let me know they had already read it.  Luckily for me, that did not dampen our enthusiasm for discussing the book and hoping it could become a movie.  Well, here’s a New Year’s gift:  yes, they are currently casting the movie, and the talented and beautiful Lupita Nyong’o will play Trevor’s mother. (He’s thrilled.)

In our latest trip to LA to visit with the grand twins, we were delighted to have the chance to dip back into this fascinating memoir, as Molly (now almost 13) had received the Young Reader version as a Hanukkah gift.   She loved it as much as we did.  I feel very confident in recommending this version to tweens and teens 10 and older.  Really, it’s a fine book for adults, but older readers might want to read a longer and more complete memoir.  In Born a Crime, Noah explains how his very existence is illegal, since he is half black and half white, which was against the law in South Africa when he was born.  As a mixed child growing up, he never would have imagined that he would become a popular comedian and commentator on The Daily Show.  It isn’t giving away any plot twists to say he grew up smart and savvy, and very funny, though there are clear elements of tragedy in his youth in a racist society with his existence fundamentally challenging the laws and social fabric of the country. There is great poignancy and wisdom in the book as well.  Trevor Noah writes eloquently as he explores the ramifications of not seeing what we do to others because we do not live with them.  Highly recommended–and remember:  the movie is in the works!


December 31, 2019

The Burning Queen, Tangled in Time, Book 2 by Kathryn Lasky

If you love the twin genres of historical fiction and time travel, then you are already fans of Kathryn Lasky’s newest series, Tangled in Time.  As you can see from our recent blog post, we were captivated and eager to read book 2.  Lucky for us, the wait wasn’t long and we already have the next installment.  Sometimes sequels disappoint; in this case, I found Book 2 possibly even better.  The characters we met have had time to develop in this new story. We again encounter Rose’s father, master spy and goldsmith to the court of Queen Mary.  His fears for his daughter in those dangerous times causes him to urge her to flee back to her home in the 21st century.  There, we come to new understandings of Rose’s grandmother and the growing depth of their connection to each other.  And there is a compelling plot development when Rose befriends an immigrant girl on her own.  Rose not only has to protect her from the “mean girls” in middle school, but also from the threat of US Customs and Immigration Enforcement.  The parallels to her decision to help save her friend Franny from the horrors of Queen Mary’s rule are woven into the plot lines in both time periods.  The only problem with this book?  Now we have to wait for Book 3!  Highly recommended.