Book Review: Stargazing by Jen Wang

“Moon is everything Christine isn’t.” The back cover describes this new middle grade graphic novel to a tee. When you’re young, you naturally compare yourself to the people around you, and that’s exactly what happens in this book. Christine is reluctant to meet Moon, the new girl across the street. Their parents get along and want the kids to be friends, but Moon is sort of…different…okay, weird. At school, Moon is known as “the girl who fights” – a rumor started after people ask where she came from, what is she doing here?

Soon enough, though, Christine becomes friends with Moon. As neighbors, they start with the convenience of being the same age and sharing Chinese food and culture. Moon’s interesting and fun; she loves dancing to K-Pop music and is a talented artist. The girls spend lots of time together and Christine feels like a new person around Moon – not the stuffy “do-your-homework-and-get-all-As” student of the past. But hanging around with Moon also leads to other observations, starting with stargazing. Moon says she belongs among the stars, and sees celestial beings telling her that she isn’t from Earth. (Well, that’s…interesting.)

Christine also notices that Moon sometimes “spaces out,” and this leads to events at school and at a birthday party that may be dangerous for the friendship, and for Moon’s well-being. When Moon gets into another fight, her world changes drastically. Now the fun-loving, dancing, happy Moon is not. Can Christine be the friend that Moon needs, or will the friendship end in disaster?

Why I Loved This Book: I loved Stargazing because this story is parallel to any young person’s life in school and with friends. Feeling (and being) weird, insecure, and out of this world are issues everyone faces at one point or another, and Christine and Moon’s stories are not unlike our own.

Why You Should Read Stargazing: This is an important book about friendships, families, and life issues. It’s also an easy-to-share graphic novel that friends and families can read together. Christine and Moon will help you to understand life better and hope for more dancing days to come.

My rating: ****

Recommended for ages 8 and up. Published by First Second, 2019.

IMWAYR: Catching Up and Moving Forward

I’m still listening to Thirteen Doorways: Wolves Behind Them All, by Laura Ruby. I need to drive more, apparently.

I still need to read The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I didn’t sit down to savor the book as I planned last week.

My “Battle of the Books” students and I are reading Code Talker by Jospeh Bruchac this week. We meet on Tuesdays to read and discuss the 20 books on our school corporation’s “Battle” list. I love how the students work together this year!

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Kathryn decided to give “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

Book Review: Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me (Due April, 2020)

Gae Polisner’s new novel, Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me, is due in April 2020 from Wednesday Books, but you should pre-order this now.

JL Markham’s teen years seem typical, and yet this main character grabs the reader’s attention and holds on for dear life. In Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me, JL’s stories surround her butterfly habitat, her family struggles, and her relationship with Max Gordon, who she hopes will take her away from all the high school drama when he graduates and moves to California. She’s packed and ready to leave as soon as Max is. He’s sort of a roughneck with a cool ride, but he’s also intelligent and cares for JL. Right?

JL’s mother has dissociative disorder and depression, which provides a major conflict for JL — a mother who lives alternate realities, wearing revealing kimonos around the house and writing letters to a dead author (enter Jack Kerouac). Dad took another stint with his out-of-town business and left JL and Mom in the best possible position he could, financially anyway. Mom doesn’t deal well most days, but she sees Dr. Marsdan faithfully so that she might get better sooner than later. JL’s “best friend forever,” Aubrey Andersson, now has new friends, Niccole and Meghan (think “Mean Girls”), so JL wraps her energy into raising beautiful butterflies in the solace and safety of her bedroom. She even learned to fix one’s broken wing by watching a video. Butterflies are stronger than we humans think, and they provide a safe and stable environment for JL in an otherwise cruel world. As for Max, he’s invested, he’s all in, he’s there for JL every step of the way. Right?

What happens when childhood friendships end, but adult life has yet to begin? What’s next for 15-year-old JL? Will she be caged in – stuck in the past, or fly away to a bright future?

Why I Loved This Book: I loved Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me for the references to strong girls who are intelligent and can live life on their own (even if they don’t know how yet), for how the characters made me feel (reliving my own high school days), and for the twists and turns that the alternating timelines led me through. I wanted to smack JL’s friends and hug her at the same time, letting her know that life works out, eventually.

Why You Should Pre-Order Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me: You’ll want to learn more about raising butterflies (it’s fascinating!). You’ll want to scream at Aubrey. You’ll want to yell at Dad over JL’s phone. You’ll want to hug Mom and tell her everything will be okay. You’ll want to help Max see the love that is standing there, waiting for him. And you’ll want to encourage JL to live her best life, leaving her past behind. This book is remarkable. Gae Polisner has done it again. Add it to your list now, and be ready to read in 2020.

My Rating: *****

IMWAYR: Mixing It Up

Fall break provided rich, relaxing reading time! Last week I finished books; this week I’m listening to a book and reading an adult title I’ve been waiting for.

I finished I Can Make This Promise, the debut by Christine Day. I loved the touching, complicated story of Edie and her family (and their secrets).

I finished Look Both Ways, by Jason Reynolds. (Check out my review later this week.) A five-star must read for those who love short stories and for those who love how characters interact throughout a text, weaving in and out of each other’s lives.

I’m listening to Thirteen Doorways: Wolves Behind Them All, by Laura Ruby. I love her work! This one is wonderful so far. It’s not what I expected!

Next up: The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Isn’t the cover beautiful? I heard about this one a while back, and now I think I have time to savor it.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Kathryn decided to give “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Fall break is this week — lots of reading to do! Happy Reading!

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: New Book Birthdays!

It’s another big week for reading! Fall Reading is Fabulous this year!

I decided to focus on graphic novels this week, since they are getting a hit from teachers across the country (again). Reminder: READING GRAPHIC NOVELS IS READING! These are some good stories, too, so let the kids read! (Teachers, you can read them, too!) I also HAD to have Jacqueline Woodson’s new book, even though it’s an adult read. (Yes, sometimes I read adult books, especially when my author friends write them.)

 

 

 

 

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and Kathryn decided to give “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?” a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: Banned Books Week 2019

Happy Banned Books Week! Read a banned or challenged book this week.  Happy Reading!

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: I’m a Winner! Thank you, Susan Ross!

I’m a winner! Thank you, Susan Ross (@SusanRossAuthor) for sending me Kiki and Jacques: A Refugee Story and Searching for Lottie from your #giveaway on Twitter. I can’t wait to get started! Searching for Lottie sounds perfect for my middle school students. Knowing that the characters are based on Susan’s own family will make this a personal Holocaust story I won’t forget, I’m sure.

I will finish Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me this week. I don’t want to give away too much, but whoa! This is another excellent book by Gae Polisner (how DOES she do it?) with characters that you want to yell at and hug all at once. JL Markham is one of my new favorite characters this year.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: “Picture Books are Perfect” and Special Book Mail

This is a big week of reading, since I’ll be presenting my introductory professional development session, “Picture Books are Perfect for Middle School & High School” on September 14th at the Indiana State Literacy Conference in Noblesville, IN. I will read MANY picture books this week to finalize my presentation. Which books should I pack? Which ones are best for teaching theme? Which ones are best for teaching multiple perspectives? How about vocabulary? Setting? I have some ideas. If you are able, join us! Click here for more details. #ISLA19

I also received a special “book mail” package today. I am reading the upcoming Jack Kerouac is Dead to Me by Gae Polisner (Wednesday Books, 04/2020). Thank you to everyone at Macmillan for sending me an advanced reader copy. I’m honored.

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.

IMWAYR: Short Week – Happy Labor Day!

This is a short school week, so there’s plenty of time for reading. This past weekend I finished Maybe He Just Likes You, Things You Can’t Say, and More to the Story (Hena Khan’s newest comes out tomorrow!). All three of these are going into the middle school library as soon as possible. All three of these are excellent stories. All three of these are important books.

I received a beautiful book over the weekend and I’m absolutely in love. Ashley Bryan’s picture book autobiography, Ashley Bryan: Words to my Life’s Song is joyful, creative, and wonderful — just look at the cover! I can’t stop smiling when I glance over at the book. I can’t believe I haven’t read it before; it was published in 2009 (Atheneum). Thank you, Donalyn Miller, for the #bookaday giveaway.

Next up is The World Ends in April by Stacy McAnulty. It’s coming out tomorrow, too. (Random House Books for Young Readers) There are LOTS of book birthdays in September and October, by the way. Get ready! (That’s my pep talk to myself.)

It’s Monday! What are YOU reading?

It’s Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It’s also a great chance to see what others are reading right now…you just might discover your next “must-read” book!

Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children’s literature – picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit – join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them.