The Night We Said Yes

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi Harper Teen, 2015. ISBN: 9780062302199. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.


There’s a kind of magic surrounding your teen years, that place/time where new and possible are bigger and stronger than reality. That will come soon enough, so for those teenagers who are able to latch on to the new and possible, memories are created that last a very long time. This is a book about finding those pieces of magic, suddenly losing them and maybe, just maybe, having a chance to get them back before reality takes over.

Ella just wants to get over the pain of breaking up and get on with her life. In a few weeks, she’ll be off to college where she may find someone to fill the hole left when Matt abruptly disappeared. Before that happened, they had wonderful times together that started the night they met at a party and agreed to say yes to everything that the night offered. Then he vanished without even saying goodbye, leaving Ella feeling like she’s at a funeral without a body.

Fast forward and all of a sudden Matt is back and convinces a semi-reluctant Ella to try one more night of saying yes, even though her hurt is still big enough so she’s leaning toward telling him to get lost.

Told in alternating chapters from ‘then’ and ‘now’ readers get a look at why they clicked and how their mutual group of friends helped create their magic. In fact Meg, her best friend and Jake, Meg’s often immature and annoying boyfriend are great characters and add a lot to the story. I particularly like how their often tempestuous romance helps Ella realize that love is mixed-up and often messy, but totally worth it.

While not perfect, this is a great fun read for romantics of all ages, but teens who have been burned or are wondering whether romance is worth risking getting hurt will really enjoy it.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

Never Said

Never Said by Carol Lynch Williams, Blink YA Books, 2015. ISBN: 9780310746614. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

never said

Two sisters, twins, Sarah, shy, nervous,happy to be out of the spotlight. Annie, prettier, more social, winner of so many beauty pageants. When Annie chops off her hair, quits competing and gains 45 pounds, Sarah doesn’t know what’s going on, but then Annie begins to talk…and Sarah Listens.

Told in distinctive and alternating styles, this book covers seven days, but packs an incredible amount of feeling and dysfunction into that week. Sarah’s still endlessly second guessing why her first and only boyfriend broke up with her as well as trying to lay low in the verbal war zone her parents and her sister have created at home.

Their parents are so wrapped up in expectations and the family real estate business that they barely know Sarah exists or has unique feelings and problems. All the attention seems to focus on Annie and getting her to be the girl she was. Neither parent has a clue that their daughters are not only really hurting, but are totally unique.

When things finally come to a head at the big party where the girls are expected to perform like pet monkeys, the denouement is sharp and swift. Most readers won’t see what’s coming. I certainly didn’t. This is a gentler treatment of the issue at the heart of the story than most, but that doesn’t diminish its impact. I’m a fan of the author’s books and was not disappointed by this, reading it in one sitting. It’s a worthy addition to any school or public library.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

The Wrong Side of Right

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne. Dial Books, 2015. ISBN: 9780803740570. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

wrong side

Kate Quinn is going through the motions, but is beginning to feel as though she might be starting to rejoin the human race. Her mom was killed in a car crash a year ago, she has no idea who her father is and she’s living in South Carolina with her uncle and aunt.

When she leaves school one day, she sees a bunch of TV and news vehicles in the parking lot and her anxiety level jumps as she flashes back to the day Mom died and there was a similar assembly of vehicles. No sooner does she get in her beat-up Buick, than her phone rings and her uncle tells her to come home immediately. That further increases her unease and when she has to push through a mass of cameras and microphones when she arrives home, that nearly puts her over the edge.

What’s waiting inside is shocking, but answers a longstanding question. Sitting in the living room, surrounded by secret service agents is Massachusetts Senator Mark Cooper, the front runner for the upcoming Republican nomination for president. Kate learns very quickly that an article in the New York Times outed him as her father. Mark had an affair with her mom while she worked on his first campaign when he ran for state senate.

In short order, Kate is offered the chance at the family she had been dreaming of for years. After confessing to his wife about the affair, his career continued to the point where he’s a bigwig in the party. Kate learns that she’ll gain a stepmom and twin step-siblings. The catch is that she has to play by the campaign rules while figuring out how she really feels and how the new family members are going to treat her.

It’s a huge learning experience, complicated by an issue her father is pretty rigid about that affects Kate in ways she’s not initially ready to deal with because it involves her real friends back in Los Angeles. An even bigger complication is her meeting and subsequent attraction to Adam, the ‘bad boy’ son of the current president, a democrat.

I really, really like this story. It feels authentic and every one of the characters is very well crafted. Kate’s continued attempts to comply with what’s expected of her and the growing realization that she’s got to be true to herself, makes for great page-turning tension and the way her relationship with her step siblings and Adam develop are just about perfect. This is a wonderful book for teens who like politics, a quirky romance or protagonists who wrestle with big emotional and moral questions.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9

More and More

More and More. Written by Emma Dodd. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This is a sweet story that is just right to read to your favorite toddler as he/she settles down to sleep for the night.  The adult monkey tells the little monkey all the reasons he is loved, for his “eyes, ears, nose…toes”.  Regardless of the little monkey’s behavior, “good (or)…bad”.

The author does a lovely job of affirming that no matter what the little monkey does, he can be secure in knowing that he is loved unconditionally, and that this parental love can only continue to grow over time.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Picture Book, Preschool

Look Where We Live! A first book of community building

 Look Where We Live! A first book of community building by Scott Ritchie. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. In this informational book, the entire community comes together to support the library’s efforts to obtain additional books and computers.  Everyone does their part: there is a community car wash, special sports and safety events, a street fair, and a yard sale, in which area children sell used toys they no longer need. Local shops donate a portion of their proceeds to the cause. People work together through a community clean-up and mural painting party, and children visit the elder living in retirement homes.  The town even has a community garden.   This book is so thoughtfully written that even young readers will get a real sense of what it means to be an integral part of a thriving community.  This is an excellent choice to teach the concepts of community, common goals, team work, etc. Perfect for children 4-8 years of age.

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Filed under Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Picture Book, Preschool

Where’s the Pair? a spotting book

Where’s the Pair? a spotting book by Britta Teckentrup.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. This is a fun, albeit more challenging. puzzle book than one might think, whereby the reader is invited to find a matching pair of animals. Each illustrated page is accompanied by a rhyme which challenges the reader to use his/her recall and visual acuity to find a particular pair of animals.

Even as an adult, it took quite a bit of concentration to locate some of these groupings. In today’s work of fast-paced computer games that make loud noises, use fast-moving characters and brilliantly flashing screens,  it is refreshing to find an activity that presents a peaceful respite from electronic games, and gives the reader an the opportunity to develop memory, observation skills and patience!

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Poetry

Me, Too!

Cover ArtMe, Too! Written by Annika Dunklee and illustrated by Lori Joy Smith. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This picture book offers childlike illustrations with large, brightly colored pictures rendered in pencil and colored in Photoshop.

The storyline is one that little girls will easily related to.  Annie and Lillemor are the very best of friends, for any number of reasons: both girls speak two languages, they are both seven year of age, they like the same colors and enjoy the same kinds of activities.  But when a new girl arrives from France, Annie becomes anxious that Lillemor will like Lillianne better, since they appear to have even MORE things in common than Lillemor  and herself.

What I really like about this book is the message that there are certain things all people share, you just need to be patient and open-minded enough to discover them.  I also like how the author promotes the concept that three doesn’t have to be a “crowd”, best friends can exist in multiples of more than two.  Me, Too is the perfect book for teaching important concepts, like: friendship, inclusion and overcoming jealousy.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade K-3, Picture Book, Preschool

The Star-Spangled Banner

The Star-Spangled Banner.   Written by Peter Spier.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This beautifully illustrated picture book sheds gives new meaning to the Star-Spangled Banner.  The end papers include state versions of the American flag and various military flags, a diagram of American flag parts and a small sketch of Fort McHenry.  The text includes the music and a copy of Key’s hand-written verses, as well as a brief history of how the song came into existence.

Peter Spier is a past Caldecott Medal winner and Caldcott Honor recipient.  His art is well known for its vibrancy and fine detail.  As a result, Spier’s work is on display in museums throughout the nation and is collected by private art enthusiasts everywhere.  Although one may be able to purchase other children’s books on the Star-Spangled Banner, it is doubtful that any of those will be has attractive as this one.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade K-3, Nonfiction, Picture Book

Sources of Light

Sources of Light by Margaret McMullan, Houghton Mifflin, 2010. ISBN: 9780547076591. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.

sources of light

Your clothes are hand-me-downs from your cousin and make you look odd when you go to school. Your father was killed in Vietnam and you’ve been told he was a hero. After he dies, you and your mother move from familiar Pittsburgh to Jackson, Mississippi where Mom will teach at a small college.

This is our introduction to fourteen year old Sam. She tries to fit in at her new school, but it isn’t long before she starts to realize that things in Jackson aren’t anything like what she was used to in Pittsburgh. The pervasiveness of racism is something she initially tries to ignore, but not so her mother. When Mom starts dating Perry, another instructor at the college, their shared view of the wrongness of racism, coupled with Perry’s encouragement of Sam’s interest in photography (he gives her an older camera and teaches her how to develop her own pictures), force her to look at her new town with more mature eyes.

Her life gets even more complicated when she starts liking Stone McLemore, older brother of the most popular girl in her freshman class. Stone’s father is extremely racist and as the relationship between the two teens progresses, Stone has to look in the mirror more carefully that he might like. At the same time, Sam’s mom and Perry are receiving verbal and physical threats because of their actions against racism. The book comes to a shattering climax that’s extremely real.

This is an excellent example of what historical fiction can be. It’s a blend of recent history, family dynamics, young romance and coming of age. While it’s been out for a while, I’d still encourage school and public libraries to add it because of its quality and historical accuracy.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9, Historical Fiction

Crazy Beautiful

Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Houghton Mifflin 2009. ISBN: 9780547223070. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS


How do you cope when you’ve blown your hands off? In Lucas’ case, he’s chosen to go with hooks instead of lifelike prostheses. He’s done so for several reasons. At his age, with his body changing and growing quickly, new hooks are a lot cheaper and his family doesn’t have much money, they also are a daily reminder of what he did and they also make a statement to the world: “Stat away, I’m bad and dangerous.”

Aurora is also starting at a new school. However, she’s sweet, kind and attracts friends like flies on watermelon. When she’s unfazed by Lucas’ hooks, he starts wondering, wondering whether his self-imposed emotional exile isn’t the only way to live after what he did.

As they begin letting each other get a little closer, they realize that the other has been hurt/scarred emotionally. While Lucas’ scars are visible, Aurora’s are just as painful and devastating. What happens as their attraction blossoms into something both need, but neither expected makes this book difficult to put down. While an older book, it’s still a good one to suggest to teens who like love stories with wounded characters.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12, Grade 7-9