ARC Review of A High Five for Glenn Burke by Phil Bildner

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

While choosing an invention for a class project, Silas decides to do his report on Glenn Burke, the first person to give a high five.

Silas very purposely chose Glenn Burke. Like Silas, Glenn Burke was a baseball player. Also like Silas, Glenn Burke was gay.

Silas has just figured this out for himself, and he hasn’t yet shared this with anyone. He decides to share it with his best friend Zoey, but when Zoey doesn’t respond quite as enthusiastically as Silas hoped, their friendship becomes strained.

Add to this homophobic remarks from some of his baseball teammates, and Silas feels more alone than ever before. In a moment of desperation, Silas lies to his teammates and tells him that he’s dating Zoey, and disastrous consequences follow.

Silas fears that what happened to Glenn Burke will happen to him too, and he becomes more and more withdrawn from the sport he loves and those he loves. It’ll take someone to get him out of this spiral.

A High Five for Glenn Burke is incredible. Silas is desperate for acceptance, and he seeks that out in any way that he can, even through a historical figure who died before he was born. Often times, I felt the desire to just hug Silas and tell him that things are going to eventually be okay. Bildner writes this story so well, and it’s one that everyone ages 9 and up should read.

A High Five for Glenn Burke releases on February 25, 2020.

ARC Review of In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Brie loves soap operas. It’s been a way for her to bond with her mom for years. But now Brie has a secret. She googled Kelly Monaco’s name (a soap opera star) and found topless photos. And thing is: Brie likes them.

Her mom walked in on Brie discovering this, but Brie slammed the laptop shut quickly before her mom could realize it. In attempts to distract her mom, she told her that she was picked to crown Mary, a big deal at her Catholic school. But it’s not even true.

Brie quickly begins her mission to earn to that top spot, becoming a better student than she ever has before. As she begins this mission though, she struggles as her mom takes on more hours at work, as she continues to hide that she likes girls, and as she tries to earn that spot to crown Mary.

This book can be a little bit tough at times to read. [Spoiler] Brie is outed to her mom, and her mom doesn’t respond that well. It’s heartbreaking to read, even though it’s realistic for many people.

But the book is beautiful. It takes you in to the story quickly, and you will root for Brie throughout the whole story.

In the Role of Brie Hutchens releases April 21, 2020.

ARC Review of Stargazing by Jen Wang

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When Moon moves into the guest house in Christine’s backyard, the two quickly become friends. Moon challenges Christine to see more to life than studying and striving for perfection, and for a while, Christine enjoys that new life. But when a bad grade on a math test happens, Christine starts pulling away from Moon.

Stargazing is a delightful middle grade graphic novel that also packs a powerful emotional punch. The art is gorgeous throughout, and the story is extremely compelling. This is the perfect addition to the excellent contemporary MG novels that are out there.

Stargazing releases September 10.

ARC Review of Roll With It by Jamie Sumner

Disclaimer: I received an eARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ellie is tired of people looking at her and thinking that she’s not capable of being independent. In some ways, she’s used to it. After all, she does have cerebral palsy and spends most of her time in a wheelchair. But that doesn’t mean she’s happy about it.

Her life suddenly goes through upheaval when her grandpa in Oklahoma finds the keys that her grandmother hid and accidentally drives a truck through the front of the local grocery store. Her mom makes the decision that they are going to help whatever way they can in order to prevent Grandpa from going into an assisted living home.

Unfortunately for Ellie, that means that they are moving to Oklahoma for six months.

However, as Ellie gets situated, she unexpectedly finds herself truly making friends for the first time while dealing with her grandpa’s dementia. But when something happens, Ellie has to try to convince her mom that Oklahoma is where she is meant to be.

Roll With It was written by a parent of someone who has CP.  What this means is that while obviously CP plays a roll in Ellie’s life, it’s not the whole story by any means. It’s sensitively done, and it makes clear that the author wanted to a write a story where having CP was NOT the story. That’s what makes this refreshing among other middle grade novels I’ve read where the main character has a disability.

Roll With It will be a great addition to any upper elementary and lower middle school library. It releases October 1.

DRC Review of Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson

Disclaimer: I received a DRC through Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Amara wants to go to Harlem. Her aunt, her cousins, and her grandpa all live there, but she’s all the way in Beaverton, Oregon, and she’s never even met them.

But her parents don’t think she belongs in New York. Amara, however, is relentless, and when her teacher introduces a “suitcase project” to learn more about who she is an individual by learning family stories, she begins to wear down her parents who agree to let her go with her dad to Harlem for her birthday.

Amara quickly discovers that her grandmother died the same day that Amara was born, and Amara’s father hasn’t talked with her grandpa since. She wants to unravel why this happened especially as her mom asks her to try to get them to make up.

Some Places More Than Others is another wonderful middle-grade novel from Renee Watson. The book takes a look at some of the Black history of Harlem and what it means to truly belong in a family where a person defies the expectations that others put on them. Middle grade readers will eat this up.

 

ARC Review of More to the Story by Hena Khan

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

More to the Story by Hena Khan is a modern-retelling of Little Women. The main characters, Jameela, Maryam, Bisma, and Aleeza, correspond to the main characters of Little Women, just updated for the 2019.

Most middle grade readers who read this will not be familiar with Little Women, and the story holds its own without knowing references to the source material. Additionally, because this is a Muslim family, it begins on Eid instead of Christmas which is nice touch.

Jameela is entering 7th grade, and she learns that she’ll be the features editor for the school newspaper. But as this is happening, some other things in her life fall apart. Her Baba (father) must go overseas for six months to do contract work after his previous contract suddenly ends. She’s worried about her family’s finances as well as missing her father. And through this all, she’s still a 7th grader which means fights with her sisters. She also faces conflicts at school, some standard disagreement and some more serious microaggressions.

As she begins to write her first big article, she learns a hard lesson about journalistic integrity while her younger sister Bisma faces some health troubles. She must learn how to truly use her words for good.

The story was charming, and it holds its own without knowing the source material. (While I did read Little Women, I tried reading it when I was 8, and I don’t remember a whole lot of the plot.) The modern-retelling will appeal to young readers.

More To the Story releases on September 3, 2019.

ARC Review of Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tam is mostly ready for seventh grade to start. She’s friendly to all, but she’s mostly friends with just Levi. Unfortunately for her, she discovers that she only has one class with him.

Kate has a plan for seventh grade which is to follow her mom’s plan for her. But this suddenly gets disrupted when she takes one for the cheerleading team and volunteers to be the mascot for a bit.

Tam and Kate end up in nearly all the same classes, and on the first day of school, Kate makes a decision that surprises herself–she sits with Tam and Levi instead of all her friends.

But the tension starts to come as Tam and Kate begin to feel things for each other. While Tam knows members of the LGBT+ community, Kate doesn’t, and Kate begins to really wrestle with what it means that she might not be straight after all.

Told in verse, Redwood and Ponytail is a delightful middle grade novel that is eagerly welcomed into the fray of #ownvoices LGBT+ representation.

It so perfectly captures the tension of becoming who you are instead of who others always thought you were supposed to be, and this will be a life-changing book for students who pick it up.

Redwood and Ponytail releases October 1.

 

ARC Review of Honeybees and Frenemies by Kristi Wientge

Disclaimer: I received an eARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Before eighth grade begins, Flor plans for a summer with her best friend. However, her best friend Brooke suddenly tells Flor that she is going off to a band camp for the summer. Suddenly, Flor is facing a summer without her best friend.

To make matters worse, the town is having a special 50th anniversary of the Little Miss Honeybee pageant. All the past winners from the past 10 years are required to participate in a new special pageant. While Flor did win Little Miss Honeybee when she was 8, it brought about an unintended consequence: racism from a former best friend Candice. Because of these bad memories, Flor wants to decline her invite until she finds out that the invite would then go to Candice.

But she speaks up too late, and now not only is her best friend gone for the summer, she’s now forced to spend a lot of time working with Candice, her former best friend and now enemy.

Now, on top of all that, her parents’ store is having financial trouble, and suddenly, winning the pageant seems like the best way to try to save her parents’ store.

Honeybees and Frenemies is a solid middle grade novel with a look at friendships, family, and complicated former friendships. A quick delightful read.