All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

Hi Guys,

Another middle school review for you all today. Trying to get in a juvenile review once a week.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor is a 5th – 7th grade read, just skirting the realm of realistic fiction. The story follows Perry Cook, an eleven year old boy who has had an unusual upbringing. Perry lives in Surprise, Nebraska at the Blue River Correctional Facility.

Perry’s mother, Jessica, went to prison at 18 for manslaughter, unknowing that she was pregnant at the time. Blue River is a prison for non-violent crimes and the Warden allowed Jessica to raise her son in Jail.

At Blue River, Perry had a great routine and the love of almost every prisoner. He was happy, respectful, he had rules to follow and did so. Every day he got to spend time with his mother, eat lunch with his friends (inmates), he’d play games, he had chores to do like most children and would leave the prison to go to school just like any other kid.

That is, until his best friend, Zoey, let slip to her D.A. step father that her best friend lived at Blue River. Suddenly, Perry is taken from the only home he has known only weeks away from his mother’s parole. Now Jessica’s parole is in limbo, the Warden is suspended, and Perry doesn’t know what to make of his new found foster family. How will Perry cope and will his mother ever get released?

What a heartfelt, emotional story about love, perseverance, tolerance, bravery and most of all the power of forgiveness. This book was able to take serious themes–including bullying, prison, the justice system, foster care, and more–and portray them in a way that kids can understand and empathize with. This is a book not just for kids with incarcerated parents/relatives, this is a book for everyone and will be a gateway for discussion on those difficult topics adults don’t know how to discuss with children.

Perry teaches us that friendship is a powerful thing and it comes in all shapes and sizes. Do I believe that any prison would  really allow a child to stay that long, no. (note: Nebraska does apparently have prison nursery’s for kids) Do I believe the Blue River prison was idealized to get across various themes, yes. But Connor does make a point to say that there are some people in the prison, “the cold ones,” who Perry is to stay away from. Even though the prison is semi-unrealistic, Connor does give hints to the real nature of incarceration throughout the book. She lends understanding, something important in a children’s book.

Even though there were a few loose ends and the ending was a tiny bit abrupt, I am still giving this one 5 stars. It would make such a great middle school book club book and also a good one for teachers to use in class.

That’s all for now!

-M-

Fuzzy Mud

Hi Guys,

As you may or may not know, I am a children’s librarian. This means I have to keep up with my kiddie reads as well as leisure reading for myself. I’ve been a big old fat slacker on that front lately, so I am going to try to add a few middle school reviews in here or there.

This week I read Louis Sachar’s Fuzzy Mud. Sachar is the author of well know children’s book, HolesFuzzy Mud is on the nominee list for the 2016-2017 Black-Eyed Susan Award, which is a children’s choice award for the state of Maryland. It is a middle school read for kids 4th-6th grade.

Fuzzy Mud follows 5th grader Tamaya Dhilwaddi and 7th grader Marshall Walsh. Everyday these two neighbors walk to Woodbridge Academy, a private school for the super smart or really rich. Tamaya fits into the first category and Marshall, well, he falls someplace in the middle.

One day Marshall is threatened by the class bully, Chad, and decides to make a break for it through the woods surrounding Woodbridge Academy in the hopes of not getting beat up. Tamaya, who isn’t allowed to walk home by herself, follows Marshall into the restricted woods. The two get hopelessly lost and Chad ends up finding them anyway. As Marshall is getting beat up, Tamaya notices some fuzzy, odd looking mud and on instinct chucks it in Chads face.

Tamaya and Marshall make a break for it and agree not to tell anyone about what happened. The next day Chad is missing and Tamaya has a rash growing exponentially up her arm. What happened to Chad? And what could have caused Tamaya’s horrible rash? In the days, weeks and months that follow the US Government and the CDC gets involved. Just what have Tamaya and Marshall gotten themselves into?

Mystery meets science fiction mixed with themes of friendship, bullying and a bit of suspense, Fuzzy Mud should definitely keep kids interested… That is, if they even pick the book up in the first place. Reading the jacket description of this book tells you nothing. I thought this was going to be a standard lost in the woods or stand up to bullies read but there was so much more to it than that. Science, senate hearings, quarantines, even mini rants on environmental resources, this book has quite a bit of depth to it.

We’ve got a male and female protagonist, so this book can be recommend to both boys and girls easily. And even though there is a serious disease sweeping the town, the story is not overly graphic for sensitive readers.

A quick, easy read that would appeal to a wide range of middle schoolers.

That’s all for now!

-M-

The Story of Diva and Flea & Giraffes Can’t Dance

Hi Guys,

Not much new to report this week. Programs are in the works, displays are pretty much set for the summer, storytimes don’t start up again until September. I’m considering adding a new section to my blog: It happened at the library. Just a weekly round up of all the strange going-ons. If you’re a librarian you know what I’m talking about. We’ll see.

I did finish the Ascendance trilogy this week by Jennifer A. Nielsen. As usual, the first book was by far the best but as a whole the trilogy is worth a read. Frankly, I was surprised by how much torture and violence there was in general in the last two books. It was done tastefully and considering the things kids watch on TV and the internet these days, pales in comparison. But still, would be worth a read through first before deciding if it is appropriate for your little ones. Overall, a good story that kept me interested; the feels were there!

This week I figured I’d write two mini reviews.

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The Story of Diva and Flea by Mo Willems & Tony DiTerlizzi

The Story of Diva and Flea is an early chapter book for 2nd-4th graders. The chapters are alternatively narrated by our main characters, Diva and Flea. Flea is a flanuer and he is one of the greats. He travels Paris on his own to see what he can see. Diva is a small dog who lives a secluded life in a fenced in courtyard in Paris, which she has never left. But Diva is well cared for and master of her small domain. A chance encounter causes these two unlikely friends to step outside their comfort zones and explore a different kind of life.

What drew my attention to this book were the beautiful illustrations that reminded me a little of the movie Lady and the Tramp. With that in mine, the story didn’t disappoint. I was expecting a rough and tumbled, streets smart cat and a sheltered but kind dog–and that is exactly what I got. I also love reading stand alone books from popular series authors, like Mo Willems, and seeing what else they can do.

This would be a great easy reader for kids who want to transition to longer chapter books. The font is not intimidating; there are still pictures to break up the text; and the chapters are short little snippits that are complete on their own but also pull together for a complete story. Yes, there are some French words in the story but the meanings are usually there in the context. Maybe a vocabulary list at the back would have been good but not necessary.

The Story of Diva and Flea was a short, early chapter book with beautiful illustrations and a relate-able theme of being brave and trying something new.


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Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees

Giraffes Can’t Dance is a picture book new to my library. The cover caught my eye and I just had to pick it up. This picture book is about Gerald, a clumsy Giraffe who desperately wants to dance but who just can’t find his rhythm. He’d love to join in with the others at the annual Jungle Dance but all the other animals laugh at him and mock him and intimidated, Gerald goes off on his own. Down in the dumps, Gerald is given some words of wisdom from a cricket, who encourages him to be different and proud. Inspired, Gerald hears the music and moves to his own beat…a beat the other animals are wowed by and Gerald becomes the life of the party.

This picture book has a little of everything–Pleasing illustrations, good rhythm and rhyme, a fairly good pace and a lesson parents everywhere want to share: that being different is OK, so embrace what is different about you and make it your own.

The story itself is a little long for a storytime book but not so long that you wouldn’t be able to use it for a jungle theme. Because it rhymes it is a little difficult to shorten the story by skipping pages. There were also one or two pages where the rhymes were a little clunky to fit the story. But I think the kids would laugh at the different dances the animals do and at Gerald’s clumsy attempts at greatness–extra points if you attempt the dances yourself!

Overall, Giraffes Can’t Dance was a fun picture book with a great lesson. Honestly, if it rhymes or can be sung it is usually a go in my book.

That’s all for today!

-M-