The Rookie Bookie

The Rookie Bookie by L. Jon Wertheim and Tobias Moskowitz is a nominee for the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.

Mitch Sloan is the new kid at school, and he doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to fitting in. At his old school in California, he was bullied for being a nerd. He doesn’t want the same thing to happen here in Indiana, so Mitch tries out for the football team and attempts to tone down his love of math, money, and correcting people.

One person who seems to connect with Mitch immediately is Jamie, a girl who loves sports as much as Mitch does. She examines strategy just like he does, and he finally feels like someone finally gets him…and he absolutely does NOT have a crush on her.

One day, Mitch and Jamie take their love of sports to the next level, and they bet on a pro football game. Mitch uses his love of strategy and statistics to skew the bet in his favor, and, though Jamie is upset at first, an idea begins to take shape. What if they can get other kids at school to bet on some games? Mitch and Jamie could serve as middle-men–or bookies–and make a little money with no risk to their own wallets. What could possibly go wrong?

Pretty soon, kids are lining up at Mitch’s locker to make bets and receive their winnings. Mitch and Jamie are making money, their “customers” are having fun, and Mitch feels what it’s like to be popular. He kind of likes the feeling, even though he wonders just how many of these people are really his friends.

Eventually, this business begins to spiral out of control, and Mitch and Jamie find themselves in more trouble than either of them have ever been in. (Who knew that operating a middle school gambling ring was against the rules?) Can their friendship recover from this huge mess? And can they find a way to redeem themselves in the eyes of their parents, their classmates, their teachers, and the whole school?

Answer these questions and many more when you read The Rookie Bookie!

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Anna Was Here

Anna Nickel is a safety expert. She knows just what to do if disaster strikes near her home in Colorado. There’s one big problem, though. Her family is moving to Oakwood, Kansas for a while. (Her dad is a preacher, and he’s been asked to help out an ailing church in his hometown.) Anna doesn’t know a lot about Kansas–and she doesn’t really want to. She’s not happy about the move, and she hopes that she’ll be back in Colorado before her birthday. Well, Anna may not get her wish.

Life in Kansas is much more complicated that Anna thought it would be. She’s encountering family members she’s never met. Her dad is totally wrapped up in the church, her mom is too busy to write, and, worst of all, Anna’s room is pink! Anna also seems to be instantly loathed by one of the kids nearby…who happens to be one of her distant cousins.

Eventually, Anna finds a few things to like about her temporary home. She’s connecting with her dad’s family (something she’d never done before), and she’s learning about farming, emus, and how one should stay safe in all sorts of situations…including tornadoes. There are still many things she doesn’t like about Kansas–the time her dad spends at church, missing her family and friends in Colorado, going to a new school, or her pink room–but maybe it’s not all bad.

When disaster hits Oakwood, Anna must put everything she knows about safety to work. She must come together with everyone in this new town to find something very valuable to her. In the process, Anna learns just what it means to be part of a community. She realizes that others will do whatever they can to help her…simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Join Anna as she discovers more about her family, her faith, and herself when you read Anna Was Here by Jane Kurtz, a 15-16 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee.

Double Dog Dare

Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff is a 2013-14 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominee. It is a great addition to libraries and classrooms that serve both elementary and middle grade students. Double Dog Dare, told in alternating voices, revolves around two fourth-graders, but I do think a lot of middle school students will find this story both relatable and entertaining. (The title alone, which brings to mind the fantastic movie A Christmas Story, may be enough of a hook to get some more precocious readers interested in this charming book.)

Kansas Bloom and Francine Halata are up for the same job. Both of them have been nominated to be the fourth grade Media Club’s news anchor for next semester, and their teacher is leaving it up to them to figure out who should get the job. Well, that may not be the smartest idea when a group of fourth-graders is involved. It seems that the job will go to whoever wins a Dare War. The members of the Media Club will vote on dares for Kansas and Francine to complete, and the person who finishes the most dares before winter break will win the anchor job. What could go wrong? (If you guessed pretty much everything, you’re on the right track.)

Almost immediately, the dares in this war get both Kansas and Francine into a bit of trouble. But their troubles are not limited to vying for the anchor position. Kansas has just moved to California from Oregon, and his mom is divorcing his dad after years of turmoil. His little sister is convinced that Dad will eventually return for good, but Kansas isn’t so sure. Kansas is sure, though, that he absolutely must win this Dare War…even though he didn’t really want the anchor job at first.

Francine, who has longed to be anchor for a while, will do whatever it takes to get the job…even if it means eating eighty-seven packets of ketchup, dying her hair green, or going into the boys bathroom. But there may be something she wants more than this position. She wants her parents to get back together. Her dad has moved out, and he and her mom are getting divorced. Francine wonders if there’s anything she could do to fix her family, but how can she do that when her own life is quickly spiraling out of control?

It’s clear than Kansas and Francine have more in common than either of them realize. And when the Dare War comes to a head, will they be able to put aside their battle, work together, and form a friendship in the midst of so much uncertainty? Who will win the coveted anchor job? I double dog dare you to find out when you read Double Dog Dare by Lisa Graff!

Double Dog Dare was equal parts entertaining and moving. I think many readers will find the dares (and their results) very funny (even though the responsible adult in me cringes at some of these antics). I also think this might be a good book for young readers dealing with divorce. Both of the main characters are dealing with different–yet similar–divorce situations, and this book may let readers experiencing this trauma know that they’re not alone.

This book is also a good fit for any student who has ever been a part of his/her school news team or media/broadcasting club.

If you’d like more information on Double Dog Dare and other books by author Lisa Graff, visit http://www.lisagraff.com/index.html.

Doodlebug: A Novel in Doodles

Sometimes drawing helps students to focus…and that is the case with the main character in Doodlebug by Karen Romano Young.  This book–written almost entirely in doodles–tells about a girl who moves from Los Angeles to San Francisco and how she tries to find her voice–even when it seems like no one understands her.

After a bit of trouble at her school in Los Angeles–and her dad getting a new job–Dodo (real name Doreen) and her family are moving all the way up to San Francisco.  Dodo is not really happy about the move, and she decides to cope in her own special way…by doodling.  She doodles about her parents, her sister Momo, the new apartment they’re staying in, and her new school.  She even uses her doodles to reinvent herself.  Dodo is now known as the Doodlebug.

Doodlebug kind of likes her new school.  In a very short time, she makes a couple of pretty cool friends.  Unfortunately, she also gets in a bit of trouble (also in a very short amount of time).  She doesn’t want to screw things up at this school, but she just can’t seem to help it.  Things don’t get much better when a couple of her teachers try to make her quit doodling.  (The horror!)

While Doodlebug’s worrying about staying out of trouble (or at least covering up the trouble she’s already in), her sister Momo is dealing with her own brand of defiance, and her mom and dad are trying to keep the jobs that brought them to San Francisco in the first place.  Doodlebug does her best to be a good student (while still being able to doodle), and she may find some help–with a number of her problems–in some unexpected places.

Doodlebug is yet another nominee for the 2012-2013 South Carolina Children’s Book Award.  It’s a good book, an extremely quick read, and it’s different from a lot of other books out there, but part of me feels like it’s more suited to readers in middle school.  The main character is kind of sarcastic and has very little problem with rule-breaking.  (She is a seventh grader, after all.)  She’s impulsive and hard-headed as well.  I guess I just think that middle school readers will relate to the character of Doodlebug more that my sweet little angels in elementary school.  (See…I can be sarcastic, too!)

Even though I am a visual learner, it was sometimes hard for me to focus while reading this book.  My eyes didn’t know where to look first on some of the pages.  (I may be visual, but I’m also a very linear thinker.  I like order.)  Some readers may be turned off by the “busyness” of the pages.  On the other hand, it will be just what other readers are looking for.

I would recommend this book to readers in upper elementary (mature 4th or 5th graders) and middle school.  It’s a fast read that Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans will most likely enjoy.

If you’d like to learn more about Doodlebug and author Karen Romano Young, visit http://www.karenromanoyoung.com/.

How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)

Nothing is going well for eleven-year-old Nicky Flynn. His parents are getting divorced. He’s been forced to move from his big house in a great neighborhood to a small apartment in a less-than-great neighborhood. Nicky’s mad at his mom because he thinks she always lies to him and tries to keep him away from his dad.  He’s in a new school and is becoming the target of bullies. He has to go to therapy every week to talk about his feelings. And now, his mom has decided to bring a dog into his life (totally without talking to him about it, by the way).  She got Reggie, a German Shepherd, from the animal shelter, but this is no ordinary dog.  Reggie is a retired seeing-eye dog, and, right away, he makes Nicky’s life a bit more interesting…

Nicky and Reggie grow closer (become best friends, really), and Nicky wants to know more about Reggie’s former life as a guide dog.  He investigates a little and learns more about Reggie’s previous owner.  He lies A LOT in his quest for the truth about Reggie’s past.  Will he ever figure out what happened between Reggie and his former owner?  Well, kind of, but that won’t really help with the mess his life is becoming…

Nicky is on the verge of losing everything, including Reggie.  As his whole life spirals out of control–and his lies are uncovered–how can Nicky hold on to the one being that is always there for him?  And what will Nicky do when his own selfishness and recklessness places both him and his beloved dog in a situation that is more dangerous than he can possibly realize?  Will Nicky ever get back in control of his own life?  And will he be able to stay with Reggie when the truth is revealed?  Find out when you read How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog) by Art Corriveau.