A Million Ways Home

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

After Poppy Parker’s grandmother suffers a stroke, the girl is sent to live in the North Shore Children’s Center. Poppy hates it here (with good reason), and she’s willing to do just about anything to reunite with her grandmother…even run away.

Poppy tries to make her way to the hospital to see Grandma Beth, but things quickly turn south. After a brief stop at a convenience store, Poppy becomes the sole witness to a horrible crime, an armed robbery and murder. The suspect knows her face and her name, so Poppy is placed under police protection, specifically in the home of Detective Trey Brannigan and his mother, Marti.

It doesn’t take long for Poppy to feel safe in this temporary home. She likes her caregivers, and she enjoys helping Marti at the animal shelter. She even manages to make a couple of friends–one human and one canine. Lizzie, the human, is a girl with troubles of her own. Gunner, the canine, is a beautiful German Shepherd who isn’t all that different from Lizzie. Both of them need someone to love them and be patient with them, and that person is Poppy.

Even with all these positives, though, Poppy longs for things to go back to the way they used to be. She wants her grandmother to get better. She wants to go back to their apartment and not have all these worries weighing on her. Surely, life can one day be normal again for Poppy and and her grandmother.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. There’s still the matter of a dangerous criminal on the loose and looking for Poppy. Also, Grandma Beth isn’t recovering like Poppy hoped she would. Things are looking bleak, and Poppy doesn’t know what to do.

Will Poppy ever be able to return home? Will her grandmother get better? Will the police ever catch the guy putting Poppy in danger? And what will happen with Lizzie and Gunner?

Learn how Poppy navigates through the waters of uncertainty, friendship, grief, and love to find her way home when you read A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.

Bug in a Vacuum

Fans of Scaredy Squirrel are sure to be charmed by author Mélanie Watt’s newest offering, Bug in a Vacuum. This picture book, which will be released on August 25th, takes readers young and old on an unexpectedly touching and hilarious journey through the five stages of grief.

A little bug was just wandering around when he found himself in quite the predicament. He was sucked into a vacuum cleaner! Surely this couldn’t be happening (denial). Maybe he could make a deal with the vacuum (bargaining)…or fight his way out (anger). But no, it’s hopeless; he’s stuck here forever (despair). He may as well accept his new home an make the best of things (acceptance). Or could there be hope for life outside this dreary vacuum cleaner after all?

While this very cute little bug is dealing with his new surroundings inside a vacuum, the family dog is going through the five stages of grief on the outside. His favorite toy is also inside this pesky appliance, and the dog really wants it back. He’s heartbroken at the thought of never seeing his toy again…but the dog may encounter something to take his mind off his troubles.

While I think older readers may appreciate Bug in a Vacuum more than many children, this book has something to delight everyone. In my opinion, the illustrations are the highlights of the book. They are gloriously detailed, and readers are certain to find something new upon every viewing. There aren’t very many words in Bug in a Vacuum, but the author uses the few words present to perfectly depict what a little bug trapped in a vacuum may be feeling.

This book could be a fun read-aloud with young readers, but I really think older readers may get more out of it. I can even see Bug in a Vacuum being used in psychology courses–or in school counseling–to illustrate the five stages of grief.

The Blue House Dog

The Blue House Dog, a nominee for the 2012-13 South Carolina Picture Book Award, is a perfect book for anyone who’s ever loved a dog or anyone who’s ever experienced grief. It is a story of a boy who lost his dog and a dog who lost his owner. Somehow, the two find each other, and after a while, grow to love each other. It’s not easy for either of them to move on, but they help each other through their grief.

I can already envision what will happen when I read this book to my young students. All of us, especially the dog lovers, will be crying. The words and pictures in this book combine to create a reading experience that is as emotional as it is satisfying.

This book almost makes me want to go out and adopt a dog right now. Almost.

Everything for a Dog

Everything for a Dog is really three tales in one–the stories of Charlie, Bone, and Henry.

Charlie is dealing with the tragic death of his older brother. Charlie’s only real companion is Sunny, the dog who seems to help his family get through this tough time. Sunny is Charlie’s best friend. But just when life is starting to return to normal in Charlie’s house, another tragedy strikes…

Bone is a dog on his own. He’s been separated from his sister, Squirrel, and he must learn to survive without her. He lives with families occasionally–some nice and some not-so-nice–but he spends a lot of his life as a stray, sleeping in the cold and foraging for food…until a boy named Henry comes along…

All Henry wants in the world is a dog, but his parents, especially his father, won’t let him have one. He makes every argument he can think of and even proves that he can be responsible, but they still won’t budge. One day, however, Henry comes across a stray dog. He can tell the dog would be wonderful if only he were given a little love. So Henry does everything he can think of to give this dog, who he’s named Buddy, a good life, even if he has to keep all of this from his parents. Soon though, Henry realizes why his parents won’t let him have a dog, and, though he understands, he is devoted to Buddy. And when something happens to Buddy, Henry may just have to let his parents in on his little secret. They could be Buddy’s last hope.

This book weaves three stories into one seamless tale. The stories interconnect in ways that are at once unexpected and heartwarming. Readers will become involved in the stories of Charlie, Bone (or Buddy), and Henry. They will laugh and cry as these tales unfold, and they will be satisfied with the final resolution. This book is not to be missed!

Love, Aubrey

After a horrible car accident rips her family apart, Aubrey is left all alone.  She takes care of herself and her new pet fish, Sammy, and they seem to be okay alone.  At least for a little while.  When Aubrey’s grandmother realizes that eleven-year-old Aubrey is basically living alone, she steps in, and Aubrey finds herself moving from her home in Virginia to Gram’s house in Vermont.

Aubrey is not sure how she feels about this move and leaving her old life behind.  She doesn’t want a new room, a new school, or even new memories that don’t include her family.  How can Aubrey move on without her dad, her little sister Savannah, or her mom?

With the help of Gram, her new best friend Bridget, and writing a few letters about her feelings, Aubrey may have found a way to continue living her life while coming to terms with what happened to her family.  Even though she’s lost a lot, Aubrey realizes she doesn’t have to face the hard stuff alone.  She still has love, friendship, and memories of her family to see her through.  But will that be enough when she has to face the hardest decision of her life?  Read Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur to discover just how strong one girl can be.

I truly loved this book.  I cried at least once per chapter.  Aubrey’s journey was absolutely heartbreaking, and I think my heart broke a little bit right along with her.  Love, Aubrey is both devastating and heartwarming, and I think it will appeal to readers of all ages, especially those who’ve enjoyed such wonderful stories as Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia.

If you decide to read Love, Aubrey, here’s a little warning:  Make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.  You’ll need it.


Slob by Ellen Potter was an easy, quick read that would be perfect for readers from upper elementary through high school.  Adults will enjoy it, too.  I would especially recommend this book to kids who may be seen as outsiders, particularly those students who are often the victims of bullies.  They will really relate to the struggles of the main character.

In Slob, we meet Owen Birnbaum, a twelve-year-old genius who happens to be the fattest kid at his school.  (I can totally relate…except I’m not twelve or a boy.)  Everyday is torture.  Even his gym teacher seems to enjoy tormenting him.  (I can relate to this, too.  I still shudder when I think about my middle school gym teacher.)  As if things weren’t already bad enough, someone keeps stealing his Oreo cookies, and the new kid, believed to be a complete psychopath, seems to be out to get Owen.

But Owen has even more to deal with that simply being bullied at school.  He’s working on an invention that will change the world and, perhaps more importantly, Owen’s life.  If it works, it will allow him to see something that happened two years ago, something that set Owen on his current course.  If Owen can just get the machine, lovingly named Nemesis, to work, he knows things will be better.  Sure, he’ll still be the fat kids who’s always picked on, but he’ll at least have the answers that have been plaguing him for two years.

As Owen grows more and more frustrated with his machine and the torture of being laughed at everyday, he must decide if he’s going to live in the past or deal with the present.  Only one path can make his life different.  Which one will it be?  Read Slob by Ellen Potter to find out!

I hope you enjoy Slob as much as I did, and if you’d like more information about this book and author Ellen Potter, visit http://www.ellenpotter.com/.