Songs For A Teenage Nomad

Songs For a Teenage Nomad by Kim Culbertson, Sourcebooks Fire, 2010. ISBN: 9781402243011. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

songs for a teenage nomad

Calle Smith feels like no place is home. After all, she’s moved twelve times in the past eight years. That’s not exactly great for feeling a sense of community or making friends, but she’s learned to rely on herself and keeps a song journal as a balance wheel.

This time things are different, despite the same old story about her dad being a complete loser and her mother having finally found and married Mr. Right (for the umpteenth time). Her mom has always told her that her father abandoned them, but as Calle starts making connections and friends, she also begins to question whether her mother has been honest with her.

Making friends is a strange, new experience, but one that grows on her, particularly the kids involved in drama. Sam, enigmatic Sam, intrigues her from the day he sits beside her and she feels a connection. Unfortunately, he won’t treat her in public like he did that day and despite her attraction to him, she begins to think that he’s only playing her. As time goes on, however, she discovers they have more secrets and sadness in common. Near the end of the book, Calle not only has to deal with the truth about her parents’ relationship, but with the reasons, both sad and complex, that make Sam unable to be open about his feelings for her. They are ones she can understand and can help him work through. The ending, while sad and with a real tragedy, is satisfying.

This is an excellent story with extremely well-crafted characters. Teens who like a book that has strong emotional appeal, or who have had difficult family experiences growing up will really relate to it.

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


Cover Art   Uninvited.  Written by Sophie Jordan.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

This is a timely novel that is both provocative and unsettling.  The story is about a teenager that seems destined to succeed in life as she has everything going for her - beauty, talent, intelligence, a devoted boyfriend, loyal friends and a loving, supportive family.  At least that is until it is determined that she carries the genetic marker for HTS, Homicidal Tendency Syndrome.  Then everything in Davy’s life changes, practically overnight.  She learns who her real supporters are and begins to understand that just because someone has a disposition for a particular trait, doesn’t mean that it will necessarily come true.

This book is a good summer read, when you may have a bit more time to ponder life’s interesting dilemmas.



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

My Life Next Door

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, Speak, 2012. ISBN: 9780142426043. Reviewed by,

John R. Clark, MLIS.

my life next door

Ever since the Garretts moved in next door, two things have been clear to Samantha Reed. Her mother is disgusted by them and she can’t stop watching them. Sam’s mother’s still full of rigid anger because her husband left her with two daughters. Fortunately, she had a trust fund that made raising two daughters easier, but the anger remains and because Sam’s absent father came from a large family and the Garretts have lots of kids, her disapproval seems to have been transferred to them.

Never mind that Mr. and Mrs Garrett are openly demonstrative about their love for each other and all the kids seem happy and well-adjusted, Sam is not allowed to have anything to do with them. Too bad her mother forgot that girls need nurturing and that a private school and fancy country club dinners are no substitute for an empathetic ear.

When Jase Garrett climbs up to sit beside her on the little roof outside her bedroom one night, her life is about to get better, worse and complicated, but not necessarily in that order. Jase is kind and doesn’t seem anything like how her mother describes the family next door. That doesn’t matter, because he pulls her into his world very quickly and, while Sam’s out of her element most of the time by the frankness, openness and affection all of the Garretts exhibit, she can’t help feeling drawn into it.

When her straight-laced mom starts acting like a hormonal teen after bringing home a younger man who has agreed to be her campaign manager during her re-election campaign for state senate, Sam notices her mother’s values changing in ways which bother her, particularly when she measures them against those of the Garretts.

It takes a terrible tragedy that affects both families for her to realize she must be her own person and that sometimes love trumps parental disapproval in major ways. The story, the issues raised, the minor characters all make this an excellent book for teens, particularly those where family rigidity or prejudice hve them questioning what they believe. It’s an amazing first book.

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

Read, Recite and Write Narrative Poems

Read, Recite and Write Narrative Poems.  Written by JoAnn Early Macken.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.   Book 3 of 4 in the Poet’s Workshop Series.

This activity-based informational book introduces young poetry fans to narrative poetry.  The series is perfect for those in the upper elementary grades.  The first chapter teaches children the differences and similarities amongst prose, drama and poetry, defines what a narrative poems is, and introduces young poets to a simple but effective five-step writing process, which could be applied to just about any writing assignment.

The next three chapters focus on how to create biographical, mysterious and fantasy narrative poems.  The final two chapters offer editing advice and tips on how to perform poetry readings.

This short series gives young writers specific, clear instructions on how to read and write poetry.  The author incorporates technical vocabulary (clearly defined) and meaningful graphics with pertinent writing examples and online resources.

These four books would be a useful addition to any elementary classroom or school library.

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

The Freedom Maze

Cover Art  The Freedom Maze.  Written by Delia Sherman.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

Thirteen year old Sophie has to spend the summer on her cranky grandmother’s sugar plantation in Louisiana.  She yearns for adventure and finds it in a magical maze.  A creature transports her back in time, to the mid 1800s, just prior to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment.  Sophie learns first-hand what is like to be a slave on a southern plantation.

The author does a good job of mixing fantasy and fact.  Children who prefer fiction will not mind the historical information and those that enjoy non-fiction will not be deterred by the fantasy.   A good choice for children of either preference.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 7-9, Historical Fiction

The Glass Casket

Cover Art  The Glass Casket.  Written McCormick Templeman.  Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.

The Glass Casket is very well written mystery but it is sexually explicit in parts.  This is the second book from the author that I have reviewed (the first being “The Little Woods”) and although some libraries may find the author’s current work something to consider, I do not think either book would be the best choice for the young adult or teen sections of most school or public libraries.

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Filed under Fantasy, Fiction, Grade 10-12

Will The Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up?

Will The Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up? By Sara Hantz, Entangled Teen, 2014. ISBN: 9781622662623. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

will the real

Abi Saunders has been bedeviled by stuttering all her life. She took up kickboxing to help her find a way to build self confidence and deal with the teasing and rejection she received from her peers. It’s worked fairly well, to the point where she’s a champion and good enough for Bill her trainer to recommend her as a stunt double for a teen actress filming an indie movie near her home in Nebraska.

Her first response is to say no, but Bill keeps after her, as do her best friends. Matt and Liv won’t let her chicken out and even drive her to the interview. She can’t back out after that because she feels that she owes them big time for their guidance and support. She also has a real thing for Matt, although she’s not about to admit it.

Her initial experience with the movie star and the film crew is awkward and makes her feel like an idiot. It doesn’t help that Tilly, the teen star is prickly, secretly unhappy and drinks almost every night. When Tilly’s boyfriend, Jon arrives unexpectedly and mistakes Abi in her dress and make-up for Tilly, it starts her down a road that’s exciting, but full of problems including her blowing off Matt and Liv at the worst possible time. Fame, or proximity to it is making her into someone she’s not and it takes a terrible choice that she barely gets through safely, to bring her to her senses and realize how important her friends are and who she really is.

This is a decent first book and most teens will enjoy reading it. Teens who have dealt with or are dealing with stuttering are going to connect with Abi.

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

The Secrets of Tree Taylor

The Secrets of Tree Taylor by Dandi Daley Mackall, Knopf, 2014. ISBN: 9780375868979. Reviewed by, John R. Clark, MLIS.

tree taylor

Tree Taylor is sitting on the front step one Sunday morning in her PJ’s, trying to come up with something to write about, when she hears a gunshot down the street. Her dad, the town doctor, hustles past her and tells her to stay put as he heads to where the shot was fired. Tree follows and from her hiding place, watches as their reclusive neighbor. Mrs. Kinney comes out of the house carrying a rifle. Her dad’s behavior is curious. He turns away from Mrs. Kinney and sits on the step. When she lowers the rifle, he takes it. He tells the sheriff that the shooting of Mr. Kinney in the shoulder, was accidentally self-inflicted.

Tree knows something doesn’t add up, but her father won’t tell her what really happened and she needs the details in order to write an article that will get her the lone freshman spot on the high school newspaper. What follows the events on this Sunday in 1963, is a wonderfully sad coming of age story. Tree begins the summer with two goals: Get on the newspaper staff and experience her first real kiss, preferably with Ray who has amazing blue eyes.

Tree faces plenty of obstacles that summer. Her best friend, Sara, has terrible news for her, her poem gets published on the front page of the town newspaper, she learns, first hand, not once, but twice, how the Vietnam War can tear families and communities apart, she learns that sometimes you have to speak out, even if it means you might lose a friend, she achieves her goals, but in unexpected ways and she learns that no matter how close families are, there will always be secrets.

Dandi has written a stellar book that younger teens will really love. There’s so much, done so well, it’s difficult to know where to start in praising it.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9

Black Ice

Black Ice by Becca Fitzpatrick, Simon & Schuster Books for Young readers, pub. Date October 7,

2014 . ISBN: 9781442474260. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS

black ice

Brit has been preparing to hike the Grand Tetons all year. Ever since her best friend Korbie’s older brother, Calvin, dumped her long distance on Prom Night, she’s been feeling a mix of anger and sadness. Now she and Korbie, along with her best friend’s boyfriend, Bear, are going to spend their spring break at Idlewilde, the remote lodge owned by Calvin and Korbie’s parents. When she learns that Calvin is coming along, she realizes that, despite her anger, she’s definitely not over him.
On the way to pick up Korbie, Brit runs into Calvin at a convenience store and impulsively lies about a new boyfriend, claiming the slightly older guy, pumping gas outside, is her new main squeeze. Oddly enough, the guy, Mason, plays along, even mentioning going fly­fishing with her dad again. Their interaction has the desired effect, making Calvin jealous, but leaving Brit very curious as to why he played along. The girls run into a heavy and unexpected storm with torrential rain that turns to snow as they hit higher elevations. Forced to abandon Brit’s Jeep Wrangler, they stumble up the road until they find a remote cabin. Two guys are inside and Brit is stunned to realize that Mason is one of them. He seems really cold, but after it becomes clear that the two guys are on the run and take Brit and Korbie hostage, he gives her subtle signs that make her realize he may not be the bad guy she thought he was, at least not in comparison with Shaun, the other fugitive.
When the two men realize that the Wrangler’s full of gear and Brit has backcountry skills, they force her to lead them out of the high country, leaving Korbie at the cabin. The bulk of this book involves what happens after they embark on this journey. Before they left the cabin, Brit found a mummified body in a toolbox that she’s pretty sure is the girl who went missing a year ago, last seen with a cowboy wearing a black hat like the one Shaun has. Is she in the company of killers? That’s just one of a number of questions that get answered during the nail­biting narrative describing their trek through treacherous snow­covered wilderness. Even though I realized who the killer was well before the end of the book, that didn’t diminish my level of immersion. I ripped through this in about four hours.
This is an excellent thriller/mystery that mature teens will devour. It’s not only a great add for public libraries, I see it as a potential Edgar nominee in 2015.

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Filed under Fiction, Grade 10-12

Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Written by Lynn Pepas. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. This non-fictional text considers nuclear power and war, and it’s after-effects on humans – specifically the Japapese people at the end of World War II.

Written at a guided reading level of M, this simple book teaches about a difficult time in world history through the use of short, easy-to-read sections supported by graphic illustrations and photographs. There are direct quotes from the scientists, presidents, nucleur war survivors, as well as those who served in the military during this time period. All-in-all this is a quality resource that deals with a meaningful topic in a sensitive manner.

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Filed under Grade 4-6, Grade 7-9, Grade K-3, Nonfiction