Book Review: Give and Take, by Elly Swartz

I was honored to receive an advanced reader copy of Give and Take by Elly Swartz (thank you, #booksojourn and Macmillan Publishers) and I was inspired! If you haven’t yet, pre-order this phenomenal middle grade novel. You won’t be disappointed.

About Give and Take: Maggie is a caring 12-year-old who loves her family and friends. Her daily life includes trapshooting with her friends at school (with her dad as the coach) and helping to care for Isabella, the family’s foster baby. Maggie has 2 brothers, as well, who give her a run for her money. Maggie would love to call Izzy her sister, but mom and dad made it clear that this is a temporary arrangement.

“Temporary” haunts Maggie — her grandmother recently passed, and didn’t remember her in the end. This devastates Maggie, and the thought of giving up another family member is too much. Maggie is obsessed with remembering every conversation, encounter, and memory that is important to her. Maggie doesn’t want to make the same “mistake” as her grandmother, so she collects artifacts in boxes and places them in her closet and under her bed. Even baby Izzie’s sock and pacifier sit in a new box of memories.

When Mom finds Maggie’s overwhelming secret stashes, she is more than concerned about the anxiety that has taken over her daughter’s mind. With the help of a doctor, family, and friends, Maggie must learn to cope with life’s give and take. With Izzie leaving to go to her forever family soon, it’s not going to be easy for Maggie to let go of anything.

Why I Loved Give and Take by Elly Swartz: I learned about the sport of trapshooting, child hoarding, and more about life as a foster family member. I was rooting for Maggie (and her friends) the whole time, and also got to relive a little bit of middle school (for better or worse!). This story is one that appeals to readers of all ages.

Why You Should Read Give and Take: Everyone will find something in common with Maggie, Mom, Dad, or her brothers. The family dynamics are realistic and well-written. The back matter includes information and resources that help families; I love “further reading” opportunities.

This book is an inspiring story of family, friendships, and growing up. Read Give and Take — take the story into your heart, and give the book to your friends when you’re done reading. (Due from FSG Books for Young Readers on October 15, 2019)

 

Book Review: The Tornado, by Jake Burt

        What does it take to avoid the school bully? Fifth grader and innovative thinker, Bell Kirby, has an elaborate plan that works, until the day Daelynn Gower, the new student with rainbow hair and crazy attire, arrives.
     Back in 4th grade, former friends, Bell and Parker Hellickson (the principal’s son), had a falling out over a hallway water fountain and a chipped tooth. After that incident, Parker became a diabolical bully and Bell became his favorite victim. In the present time, Bell created a notebook full of systems and solutions for every possible encounter, and was able to mostly avoid Parker (and Mr. Hellickson). Until now.
     When Daelynn becomes the new target, Bell must either step up and do something, or let it go and revel in the relief that Parker has finally decided to leave him alone. It seems like an easy choice, but it proves more difficult than Bell thought. Plus, Bell finds out during Creator Club that more kids have more stories to share about Parker and his “accidental antics.”
     The Tornado, by Jake Burt, is a book about bullying that is true-to-life, from the victim/bully mentality of kids all the way down to adults who say there is “zero tolerance,” but don’t act on their words. This book should be read aloud, discussed, and shared widely; it is important and timely. Put this book on your radar. Be prepared for this middle-grade must-read in October 2019.

Book Review: The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

seasonofstyxmalone_magoon2018

Caleb Franklin narrates the story of how he and his brother, Bobby Gene, met Styx Malone and got into the “biggest trouble we’ve ever gotten into in our lives.” The first page is one of those excellent leads we talk about in English class. You know when you read the first page, the story isn’t going to let you go until you finish. I love the line, “It all started the moment I broke the cardinal rule of the Franklin household: Leave well enough alone.” (p. 1)

Styx Malone lived in the woods near the Franklin house in Sutton, Indiana. He was a 16, a loner, and quite extraordinary. Caleb was drawn to Styx the moment he laid eyes on him. Caleb didn’t want to be ordinary. He spent his time dreaming of what was out there in the world, while Styx lived it. In the back woods of Indiana, one could get stuck in the ordinary of each day (like Mr. Franklin), but Caleb and Bobby Gene decided that hanging out with Styx Malone could get them places — maybe even Indianapolis, or beyond.

Styx Malone showed the brothers what it was like to live: how to talk so that you get what you want, how to act cool, how to pull off the impossible. The boys spent the summer learning about the Great Escalator Trade — a way to trade small things for bigger ones, all the way up to items that could make dreams come true. Caleb liked the stories Styx told, and being with Styx made him feel extraordinary, but it also got him grounded, and eventually changed his life — and his family’s lives — forever.

Kekla Magoon tells amazing stories, and The Season of Styx Malone is no different. The adventures, the fun, the trouble — many twists and turns in this tale of teen friendships and family issues kept me reading and wondering what would happen next. Since Ms. Magoon grew up in Indiana, I felt a connection to her and the story of small town life vs. big city dreams. I, too, once dreamed of living in a big city like Indianapolis, or Chicago, or New York City. One quote that stuck out for me, especially as a writer, was, “A happy ending depends on where you stop the story.” (p. 117) Kekla Magoon stopped this story at the perfect point — making The Season of Styx Malone an extraordinary must-read.

Published in 2018 by Wendy Lamb Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books